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OUT ON A LIMB 




OUT ON A LIMB 



by 
LOUISE BAKER 

Author of 
"PARTY LINE" 



MCGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, INC. 

New York : London 



OUT ON A LIMB 

Copyright, 1946, by Louise Baker 

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be 
reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher. 



03450 



ELEVENTH PRINTING 




PUBLISHED BY THE McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I Honeymoon with a Handicap 1 

II On Foot Again 10 

III Best Foot Forward 20 

IV The Leg and I 34 
V Off with Her Leg 45 

VI The Road to Buenos Aires 53 

VII Some Horses and a Husband 63 

VIII The Game 82 

IX "Watch Your Step" 98 

X All at Sea 109 

XI In No Sense a Broad 119 

XII Wolves and Lambs 128 

XIII Reading and Writing and Pig Latin 142 

XIV So Much in Common 151 
XV Ski-doodling 164 

XVI "Having a Wonderful Time" 174 

XVII In Praise of a Peg Leg 182 

XVIII Gone to the Dogs 195 

XIX The Face on the Cuttingroom Floor 205 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/outonlimbOObake 



OUT ON A LIMB 



CHAPTER I 

Honeymoon with a Handicap 

I became a minor celebrity in my home town at the 
precocious age of eight. This distinction was not 
bestowed on me because I was a bright little trick 
like Joel Kupperman, nor because I could play the 
piano like a velvet-pantalooned prodigy. I was, to keep 
the record straight, a decidedly normal and thoroughly 
untalented child. I wasn't even pretty. My paternal 
grandmother, in fact, often pointed out that I was the 
plainest girl in three generations of our family, and 
she had a photograph album full of tintypes to prove 
it. She hoped that I'd at least be good, but I didn't 
achieve my fame because of my virtue either. My 
memorable record in the annals of the town was the 
result of mere accident. 

Completely against parental advice, I took an un- 
authorized spin on a neighbor boy's bicycle. It was 
a shiny, red vehicle that I admired inordinately but 
thoroughly misunderstood. I couldn't even reach the 
pedals. However, I started a perilous descent of a 
hill, yelling with giddy excitement. At the bottom, I 

1 



OUT ON A LIMB 

swung around a corner where I entangled myself 
and bicycle with an oncoming automobile. As part, 
apparently, of an ordained pattern, the car was piloted 
by a woman who was just learning to drive. Her 
ignorance and mine combined to victimize me. 

A crowd gathered. Strong arms lifted me. I had a 
momentary horrified clarity during which I screamed 
"Mama!" as I got what proved to be a farewell glimpse 
of my right leg. 

When I regained consciousness ten days later in a 
white hospital bed, with the blankets propped over 
me like a canopy, I had one foot in the grave. It was 
a heavy penalty to pay for my pirated first and last 
ride on a bicycle. 

However, I was famous. My name, which in the 
past had excited no stirring sentiments, was mentioned 
with eulogy in ten county newspapers; five doctors 
had hovered over me in consultation; twelve churches 
and one synagogue had offered up prayers for my 
recovery; and I had been in surgery three times. 

The last trip was the fateful one. My old friend 
Dr. Craig, who had never administered anything more 
serious than pink pills to me during my brief and 
healthy span, in final desperation for my life, ampu- 
tated my right leg above the knee. He then, if there 
is any truth in local lore, went into his office and had 
himself a good cry over the whole business. 

There were many tears shed over me in the name 

2 



HONEYMOON WITH A HANDICAP 

of my youth. I was, it was mournfully agreed, too 
young to have such a life-shattering tragedy strike me. 
Since no one has wept over me in a long time, it is 
nice to recollect that I once provoked a lot of strong 
emotion. 

However, the emotion bolstered a false theory— the 
theory that I was too young. I was, I am convinced, 
precisely the right age. I am not one of those cheer- 
fully smiling brave-hearts who claims to be just too- 
too happy about a handicap and grateful for the 
spiritual strength that bearing my burden has be- 
stowed on me. Spiritual strength bores me— you can't 
dance on it, and I'm certain it never receives the 
wholehearted admiration accorded a well-shaped gam. 
I'd much rather have two legs, even though a pair of 
nylon stockings lasts twice as long when you're a 
uniped. But, granted that Fate has cast an evil de- 
signing eye on an appendage, let her make the graceful 
gesture and snip while the victim is young! 

I understand that it was a tossup for a while whether 
my family would have to invest in a tombstone or a 
pair of crutches for me. But ten weeks of concentrated 
medical attention combined with my normal healthy 
resiliency, and I was issued to the world again as 
damaged goods. Even then, I think I suspected what 
I know now. Fate, for all her worst intentions, was 
foiled in some fantastic way. She had her pound of 
flesh, to be sure, but she left me primed for a unique 

3 



OUT ON A LIMB 

adventure in living that I should never have experi- 
enced with the orthodox number of legs. 

Perhaps I realized the new turn life had taken when 
my sister sat by my bedside and sobbed out an ill- 
made promise that I would never have to help her 
with the dishes again so long as I lived. Instead of 
shoving an affidavit at her, I was feeling just sick 
enough to fancy myself Elsie Dinsmore or her first 
cousin, Polly anna. I lightheadedly assured her I'd be 
back at the pan as soon as I got some crutches. Within 
a few months we were striking blows at each other 
over that regrettable exchange of sisterly sentiments. 

If I had been a little sharper-witted and had pos- 
sessed a more pliable pair of parents, I believe I might 
very well have developed into the most thoroughly 
spoiled brat the world has ever seen. As it was, I 
made a close approximation to that pinnacle before I 
fell under the weight of my own accomplishment. 

Even before I left the hospital my sudden power 
over people was showing itself. First of all, with 
completely unconscious brilliance, I chose rather in- 
spired subjects to discuss during my five days of post- 
operative delirium. I rambled on feverishly but with 
moving feeling about a large doll with real golden 
hair and blue eyes that opened and closed. I even 
conveniently mentioned the awesome price and just 
where such a doll might be purchased, and I sighed 
over my father's attested poverty which prevented him 

4 



HONEYMOON WITH A HANDICAP 

from buying me this coveted treasure. My delirious 
words were passed on promptly. The head nurse 
quoted my pathetic plea to our local telephone oper- 
ator. The news spread. "That poor little crippled child 
in the hospital, a breath away from death, wants a 

doii. . . r 

Our local toy merchant was no fool. He let ten 
customers buy identical yellow-haired dolls at $7.98 
apiece, even though he knew well enough for what 
child they were all destined. He also sold seven dark- 
haired, porcelain-faced beauties when he ran out of 
blondes. And he did a regular Christmas-bulk business 
in doll beds, parcheesi games, paper dolls, puzzles, 
paintboxes and books. People averted their eyes, I 
understand, when they passed the Super Ball-bearing 
Flyer roller skates that I had also mentioned during 
my providential spell of wistful delirium. The sight 
of the roller skates brought a tear to many an eye 
and usually raised the ante assigned for a present to 
me by at least a dollar. The merchant decided it might 
help business to put bicycles in his window. 

When I left the hospital it took two cars to transport 
my loot. I was as well equipped with toys as a princess. 
Everybody in town, including owners of flower beds 
on which I had trod and windows which I had broken, 
suddenly loved me and came bearing gifts. It was a 
warmhearted, friendly little town. Although it claimed 
no psychologists or occupational therapists, it was, I 

5 



OUT ON A LIMB 

believe, the ideal environment for the normal adjust- 
ment of a handicapped child. 

By putting different colored ribbons on the ten 
blonde dolls, I was able to tell them apart and I named 
them Alice, Virginia, Araminta Ann, Elizabeth, Caro- 
line, Janet, Shirley, Phronsey (after a member of a 
distinguished fictional family named Pepper), Gwen- 
dolyn, and Hortense— a hateful name, but I poked 
Hortense's eye out so she didn't deserve anything 
better. It didn't occur to me to share the dolls with 
my less lavishly endowed friends. I merely displayed 
them smugly and let my playmates swallow the water 
in their mouths. 

It took me just ten weeks in the hospital to acquire 
seventeen new dolls and a very selfish disposition. In 
time, of course, my parents made me give away the 
dolls— all except Hortense whose handicap eventually 
appealed to my better nature, and Araminta Ann who 
was, for some reason, my favorite. As for my selfish- 
ness, that was spanked out of me when my parents 
finally came to the conclusion that they were going 
to have to live with me for a long, long time, and the 
prospect was anything but cheering. 

The first spanking was the hardest— on Father. Later 
they were much harder on me and easier on him. I'll 
never forget the shock of that first, firm-handed dis- 
cipline. 

I arrived at the sly conclusion very soon after I 

6 



HONEYMOON WITH A HANDICAP 

came home from the hospital that I didn't really have 
to be delirious to get what I wanted. Three months 
before, I was a reasonably well-mannered child who 
even hesitated to hint for cookies when visiting my 
own grandmother. Now I was a precocious little gold- 
digger, and anyone was my fair game. I possessed a 
magic lamp, a wishing ring— or something just as 
efficient and much more realistic. I could sit in my 
wheel chair and watch the normal children playing 
outdoors. All I had to mumble by way of magic words 
was, "I'll never be able to run again, will I?" This sad 
little speech— rhetorically speaking— flung everyone 
within hearing flat on their faces in abject servitude. 
The moment was ripe to make almost any demand. 
As a cousin of mine in reminiscing about our youth 
once said, "You sure were a little stinker!" 

On the particular occasion which was to prove a 
prologue to the inevitable ripping off of the velvet 
glove, we had a caller. It was Mrs. Royce, an old 
friend of the family. She made a great emotional 
flutter over me. She sniffled into her handkerchief and 
claimed to have a cold, but she didn't fool me— not 
for a minute! 

"And what shall I bring to this little girlie next time 
I come?" she cooed at me between her attacks of 
pseudo-sinusitus. 

"Well—" I pondered carefully and commercially. 
"I can't run or anything any more, you know. I can 

7 



OUT ON A LIMB 

only sit on the floor and play all by myself." Long 
sigh. Pause. "I think I'd like to have you bring me an 
electric train." 

I knew well enough the financial magnitude of 
my aspiration. Electric trains had been discussed fre- 
quently in our household. I had about as much chance 
of getting an electric train from Father as I had of 
getting fifty-one per cent of the preferred stock in the 
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe. However, I could 
see that my speech had worked new havoc on Mrs. 
Royce's cold, and I was confidently expectant. But 
although I didn't know it, I had at long last taken the 
fatal step back to normalcy. 

Father cleared his throat noisily and said, "Louise 
isn't going to have an electric train." 

"Oh, now— really!" Kind Mrs. Royce was a childless 
widow with a solid bank account. "I'd love to give the 
poor little girlie an electric train." 

"No," repeated my father, warming to a role that 
had once been very familiar to him. "We don't want 
her to have an electric train." 

"You see," Mother brought up reinforcements. Ob- 
viously, in her own mysterious manner, she was reading 
Father's mind. "We think electric toys are dangerous. 
She might get a shock." 

"Oh, yes— a shock. She might at that," Mrs. Royce 
agreed reluctantly. "I'll think of something just as 
nice and more suitable for a little girlie." (The next 

8 



HONEYMOON WITH A HANDICAP 

day she presented me with a satin-lined sewing basket 
equipped with colored thread, blunt scissors, and a 
red strawberry in which to embed needles. A splendid 
thing, that basket, but alas, I wasn't that kind of a 
girlie.) 

Farewells were said and Mrs. Royce departed, after 
patting my cheek. 

"I won't either get a shock!" I cried, as soon as the 
door closed. 

"Not from an electric train, you won't!" said Father, 
and there was a regretful but determined look in his 
eye. "But you're due for a shock right now." 

He headed straight for me. He lifted me gently out 
of my wheel chair and carefully tilted me over his 
knee. I saw the tortured expression on Mother's face 
and heard her gasp. But she didn't make a move 
to rescue me, even when I screamed, "Mama! I'm 
crippled!" with all the wicked chicanery of my little 
black heart. 

Father spanked me. The honeymoon with my handi- 
cap was over. 



CHAPTER II 

On Foot Again 

I occupied a wheel chair much longer than was 
actually necessary merely because there were no 
crutches readily available in my size. Although the 
local drugstore carried a few rental crutches to 
accommodate the temporarily disabled, it was appar- 
ently assumed that no one as small as I would ever 
be clumsy enough to need props. Mr. Bennett, the 
pharmacist, stopped by one evening to measure me, 
and he sent off an order to a San Francisco orthopedic 
supply house. It happened that the California distribu- 
tor was also temporarily out of my size. So my first 
pair of crutches came all the way across the continent 
from a crutch manufacturer in Newark, New Jersey. 

Waiting for the crutches to arrive was a slow and 
tantalizing ordeal. I looked up Newark on a map and 
it seemed more remote than the North Pole. I felt I 
might get better results by writing to Santa Claus. 

I was certainly ready to walk! My strength was 
definitely back. In fact, it was as gusty and explosive 
as a hurricane bottled up in a barrel. Dolls went dull 

10 



ON FOOT AGAIN 

on me. I had read all the children's books in the public 
library and I knew my own books by heart. I was 
headed through the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the 
theory that I would learn a few facts every day until 
I knew absolutely everything, but the going got grim 
before I'd made a dent in the A's. I was sick of playing 
jacks on the front porch. I was even bored with 
mumblety-peg, the most vigorous and hardy sedentary 
game I knew. The only recreation I could tolerate was 
plowing up the front lawn while rolling my wheel 
chair over it in a self -invented polo-croquet. To play 
this game I required two or three competitors— also 
mounted on vehicles of their choice. The lawn was 
beginning to look somewhat haggard, and so was 
Mother. I was already a veteran hopper. I bounced 
all over the house, much to the concern of my grand- 
mother, who was convinced I'd disarrange all my 
internal organs. 

"And then where will you be, young lady?" she 
popped the moot question. "No leg— and queer things 
wrong with your insides, too." Grandmother's com- 
plete lack of tact was undoubtedly good, rugged train- 
ing for me. Certainly after Grandmother, no one was 
ever able to embarrass me. 

Every afternoon my sister Bernice pushed me to 
the corner where we had a clear, three-block view 
of Father's direct route home from the office. Usually 

11 



OUT ON A LIMB 

several of the neighborhood children kept the vigil 
with us. 

Finally, one day when hope was almost dead, we 
spotted Father looking very jaunty. When he saw us, 
he waved and held up a brown paper-wrapped parcel. 
Then he abandoned all dignity and sprinted down 
the street. 

"They've come!" I shouted. "The crutches from 
Newark, New Jersey!" Johnny Nesbitt, who lived next 
door to us, took up the tidings and ran with them up 
and down both sides of our block. Children spewed 
out of houses. By the time we got home, a large 
audience had accumulated. You'd have thought I was 
about to uncrate a Shetland pony. 

I probably never in my life unwrapped a more 
significant package than the one that contained that 
first pair of yellow pine crutches. One dollar and 
twenty-five cents' worth— Mr. Bennett let us have them 
wholesale. 

They must have been very small crutches, but they 
seemed frightfully heavy and cumbersome as I freed 
them from the paper and twine. Eagerly I slid out of 
my wheel chair. 

"Maybe you'd better wait until later to try them," 
Mother suggested nervously. 

"Wait!" I gasped. What had I been doing for the 
past interminable month! Then I saw the fear on 
Mother's face. She thought I'd fall. It was obvious 

12 



ON FOOT AGAIN 

my silently pitying audience shared her dire expecta- 
tion. Suddenly, so did I. 

"Of course, she won't wait!" Father announced 
sensibly. He slipped one crutch under each of my 
arms. He knew I was a show-off and would try harder 
in front of my friends. I grasped the handles. 

"Now lift the crutches ahead of you," he instructed 
me. "You've seen people walk on crutches— remember 
when Jim Ralston broke his ankle. Just swing your foot 
up in front of them. That's all there is to it." 

My knee shook, but I walked alone across the room. 
I was incredibly clumsy, but I was once more self- 
propelling and I felt triumphant. 

My father, I think, recognized from the start that 
other people's fears and pity would always be more 
threatening to my security than my own. He worked 
hard at concealing his personal concern over me and 
he was singularly successful. So successful that some 
of our neighbors regarded him as unfeeling. So success- 
ful that he even gave me the comforting impression 
that he thought children with two legs were just a 
little bit odd. 

"It's easy," I said breathlessly. "Very easy." I started 
to sit down on the davenport and made my first 
technical discovery. Crutches won't bend. They must 
be put aside before you start to fold up. Father rescued 
me as I tipped over backward. 

13 



OUT ON A LIMB 

"I sure bet it's fun to walk on crutches," Johnny 
Nesbitt sighed enviously. 

"Oh, it certainly is!" I crossed my fingers to protect 
myself from the bold-faced lie. Actually, I spoke the 
truth; walking on crutches is great fun, as I discovered 
eventually. 

"Could I try them just for a second?" Johnny asked. 

"Me, too!" It was a chorus. 

Crutches are invariably fascinating to children* It 
surprised Mother, I am sure, that they were immedi- 
ately treated like a new velocipede or a scooter. Every- 
one lined up and took turns for the remainder of the 
afternoon. The children in my immediate neighbor- 
hood and most of my classmates in school all became 
quite adept at walking on crutches. 

For Johnny Nesbitt, at least, the skill proved useful. 
Last year he wrote me from an army hospital where 
he was convalescing from a leg wound received in 
the Pacific war theater. "The eyes nearly popped out 
of the nurse's head when I put the crutches under 
my arms for the first time, whinnied at her, and then 
did the five-gaited horse act down the hospital cor- 
ridor." The five gaits were a spectacular and horsey 
bit of fancy work that I invented early in my career 
on crutches. 

Lending the crutches, it is true, became something 
of a burden. A person dependent on crutches likes to 
have them in sight every minute, and preferably in 

14 



ON FOOT AGAIN 

hand. I have no more menacing, though innocent, 
enemy than the restaurant waiter who politely snatches 
my sticks as he seats me at a table and rushes off with 
them to a check room or some other mysterious place 
of concealment. It gives me the frantic feeling a normal 
person might experience if some fiend padlocked his 
feet together and then, with a hollow chortle, tossed 
the key out the window. 

A rule was eventually laid down in the neighbor- 
hood that a child might, with permission, borrow the 
crutches providing they didn't go beyond the range 
of my vision. The crutches were my only possessions 
with which I was allowed, and even encouraged, to 
be selfish. As Father pointed out, "After all, you don't 
go around borrowing other people's legs. It amounts 
to the same thing." 

The only share-the-crutch plan that was completely 
successful was the one worked out by Barbara Bradley 
and me. Barbara and I were best friends, but we were 
prevented by my crutches from walking to school side 
by side, holding hands, or arms entwined. Our scheme 
solved this problem. Barbara put a crutch under her 
left arm and I put one under my right. By resting our 
free arms on each other's shoulders, we supported 
each other in the middle. By this complicated arrange- 
ment, we walked to school every day, and resembled, 
for all the world, a badly damaged pair of Siamese 
twins. 

15 



OUT ON A LIMB 

Grandmother telephoned the night the crutches 
arrived. "I hear the crutches have come/' She sighed 
deeply and with apparent regret. Grandma was a 
cynic. "I expect you'll be tramping around the neigh- 
borhood into all kinds of trouble again. Now, listen 
to me, you probably think you know it all— about 
handling your crutches— but let me remind you that 
there are plenty of older and wiser heads than yours." 
Grandma was argumentative, even in monologue. 

"I can walk just fine, Grandma," I bragged. 

"That's what you say," Grandmother sniffed. "You 
are to go over and see Mrs. Ferris tomorrow, and 
she'll teach you how to walk like a lady, if you've got 
sense enough to pay attention." 

Mrs. Ferris was eighty-three and had been bed- 
ridden for seven years, ever since she came to town 
to live with her daughter. It seemed beyond possibility 
that the withered, little wisp could teach me anything, 
least of all, how to walk. 

But Grandmother and I had an agreement. I minded 
her implicitly, in the expectation of deferred re- 
ward. When I got to heaven— a possibility that 
Grandma didn't wholeheartedly anticipate— she would, 
of course, already be there and she promised to put 
in a good word for me. Grandma and God were on 
excellent terms although, regrettably, the same 
couldn't be said of Grandma and anyone else. I some- 
times vaguely wondered what God saw in Grandma. 

16 



ON FOOT AGAIN 

"All right, Grandma," I agreed, "I will go over and 
ask Mrs. Ferris how to walk." It wouldn't have been 
good form to demand what Mrs. Ferris knew about 
the business. 

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Ferris knew a great deal. 
She had been injured in an accident and for fifteen 
years of her active life, she had walked on crutches. 

I don't have a Phi Beta key; Mr. Powers never 
cast a covetous eye in my direction; and I can't do 
parlor tricks; but I do allow myself one immodest, 
extravagant vanity. It is the conviction that no one in 
the world can handle a pair of crutches better than 
1. 1 have my own bag of tricks collected during twenty- 
eight years of experience. It was a little old lady, ten 
times my age, who really planted my foot and my 
crutches firmly on the ground and started me on the 
quest for a wing for my heel. 

Mrs. Ferris's advice was practical and sound, and 
included the basic technique that distinguishes an 
experienced lifer on crutches from the temporary time- 
server. 

"First of all," Mrs. Ferris instructed me, "do not 
lean on your armpits and do not swing your whole 
body when you take a step. Experts can walk easily 
with no saddletops at all on their crutches. Lean all 
your weight on the palms of your hands. The only 
time when it is necessary to bear weight on the tops 

17 



OUT ON A LIMB 

of your crutches is when you are carrying something 
in your hands." 

Not only is it much more graceful and comfortable 
to "walk on your hands," but it is protection against 
injury of the brachial nerves, particularly vulnerable 
in the armpits. Injury to these nerves, with the re- 
sultant so-called "crutch paralysis," is the blackest 
specter that haunts a permanent crutch-user. 

Mrs. Ferris and I spent an hour together every day 
for several weeks. I strutted up and down her bedroom 
while she criticized my technique. My most persistent 
error was spreading the crutches out to form a wide 
tripod and swinging my whole body with each stride 
instead of stepping out with my foot in a normal 
walking motion. 

"Hold them close to your sides! Make them look 
as if they grew there!" Mrs. Ferris repeated over and 
over. "Keep your body perpendicular! Walk with your 
foot, not with your torso." 

Mrs. Ferris's methods were not only practical but 
aesthetic. Making the crutches as nearly anatomical as 
possible, crowding them to my sides, also prevented 
me from planting a booby trap with them. Flung out, 
one on each side, in the instinctive stance of a be- 
ginner, they created an infernal device for tripping 
up unwary pedestrians. Not that I haven't, with de- 
sign, upset a few minor enemies in my time. This trick 
is a mild version of the perfect crime. The victim 

18 



ON FOOT AGAIN 

always assumes that he was in the wrong and, even 
sprawled out on the sidewalk, apologizes. 

Before Mrs. Ferris graduated me from her kinder- 
garten, she had me walking with a full cup of water 
in my hand and two books on my head. 

"When you can recite your multiplication tables 
as you walk down the street, without once thinking 
about your crutches, you have really succeeded," Mrs. 
Ferris told me. 

I didn't know my multiplication tables, but I took 
her literally and started studying them. By the time 
I'd mastered my eights, I'd practically quit walking 
in favor of running, and so I never did learn my nines. 



19 



CHAPTER III 

Best Foot Forward 

Grandma said it was an outrage. "One of two ter- 
' rible things will happen," she predicted. "She'll 
either kill herself, or worse yet, she'll get along fine 
and end up in vaudeville. We've had six clergymen, 
a smattering of lawyers and doctors and a raft of 
school teachers and good honest farmers in this family. 
We've never had a show girl!" 

"What about Great-great-great-cousin Thaddeus?" 
Bernice demanded, just to keep things interesting. 

"Hah! That was on your mother's side." Grand- 
mother nodded her head with satisfaction. "And even 
that rascal wasn't a show girl." 

"But he was a perfectly marvelous outlaw and shot 
a man in cold blood," I bragged. "That's just as bad." 

"It's not just as bad," Grandma stated with finality. 

"Now, listen to me, Mother." On rare occasions 
Father was bold enough to stand up to Grandma. 
"We're off the subject. Louise is nine years old and 
she wants some roller skates for her birthday. Is there 
anything so strange in that? Bernice had roller skates 
when she was nine." 

20 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

"That's different. Bernice didn't make an unnatural 
spectacle of herself using them. Everyone will stare, 
and first thing you know, Louise will become a dis- 
gusting little exhibitionist and skate off with a carnival 
or something and you'll never see her again. It's a pity 
she isn't a little lady, content to learn to sew and do 
water colors and read good literature. I never skated 
when I was her age, and I had both my limbs." 

When Grandmother spoke of her own legs, she 
called them limbs, as if they were slightly more re- 
fined than ordinary appendages. 

In reality Grandmother wasn't the sharp-bladed 
battle-ax she pretended. She was really fond of me 
and every new hurdle I wanted to leap seemed twice 
as hazardous to her as the last one. 

But Father bought me the skates. I had already 
experimented with Barbara Bradley's and knew I 
could manage. With a skate on my one foot and a 
crutch on each side, I propelled myself. My balance 
was exceptional— as is most every uniped's. This is 
a natural physical compensation that develops quickly 
—as do strong shoulders and arms. After a few good 
shoves, I could lift up my crutches and coast along 
easily on the one skate, pushing with my sticks only 
when I needed fresh momentum. For a child of nine, 
supposedly sentenced to a plodding pedestrianism, 
getting back on wheels was sheer ecstasy. 

Of course, I fell frequently while developing skill 

21 



OUT ON A LIMB 

on roller skates. Every child sprawls when learning 
to skate. I am not convinced that I spread myself 
out on the sidewalk any more often than a normal 
child does. But this is the curious fact: my playmates, 
wise in their childhood, accepted my spills as inevi- 
table to the process of learning— but adults didn't. 
No army of rescuers advanced double-quick time to 
pick up any other youngster on the block when he 
came a cropper. But whenever I took a header, for 
all the turmoil the minor catastrophe created, it might 
have been a four-car smashup at a busy intersection. 
All the women in our neighborhood must have 
squandered their days with their eyes glued to a 
crack in the window blind while I learned to roller 
skate. For a brief time, I was as prominent as a 
lurid scandal. 

Whenever I fell, out swarmed the women in droves, 
clucking and fretting like a bunch of bereft mother 
hens. It was kind of them, and in retrospect I appre- 
ciate their solicitude, but at the time I resented and 
was greatly embarrassed by their interference. It set 
me apart and emphasized my difference. For they 
assumed that no routine hazard to skating— no stick 
or stone— upset my flying wheels. It was a foregone 
conclusion that I fell because I was a poor, helpless 
cripple. 

"What must her mother think!" was a phrase with 
which I became very familiar. I know now what my 

22 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

mother thought. Inside our house, she too kept her 
eye on the crack in the blind, and she wrung her 
hands and took to biting her fingernails while she 
developed a lot of fortitude. For Mother differed from 
the other women in only one particular. She never 
ran out and picked me up. I believe that Father, a 
normally devoted husband, threatened homicide if 
she did. 

Eventually, of course, nobody paid any attention 
to me. The women abandoned their watchful vigils 
at windows and went back to more pressing prob- 
lems—their baking and dishwashing. I rolled up and 
down the street unheeded and was no longer good 
box office. 

However, the roller-skating incident left its mark 
on me, and consciously or unconsciously, it influenced 
my future approach to physical activity. I was by 
nature energetic and athletic. I wanted to engage 
in all sorts of "inappropriate" games and sports, but 
I became overly sensitive to failure— foolishly so. I 
had a stubborn pride that was wounded by any hint 
that my handicap was a "handicap." It really wasn't 
much of one, compared to the frustrating handicaps 
many less fortunate people carry. Still I was practically 
neurotic over The Word. My feathers ruffled at the 
drop of it. A wise psychologist friend of mine has 
since put a name on this attitude of mind. She called 
it a tendency to overcompensate. 

23 



OUT ON A LIMB 

When I learned to swim, I insisted that Father 
drive me out to the country to a friend's ranch where, 
in guarded privacy, I went through my dog-paddling 
period in a muddy irrigation ditch. I forewent the 
greater comfort and the companionship of the public 
swimming pool until I not only swam as well as other 
eleven-year-olds (the age at which I took to the water), 
but better. Then, when I made a public appearance, 
no one even noticed my handicap— I falsely deduced. 

My swimming ability, in point of fact, probably 
was more conspicuous than utter ineptitude would 
have been. But blissfully, I had no such realization. 
In the water, my arms and shoulders, disciplined into 
extra strength by my crutches, compensated in the 
Australian crawl for my one-cylinder flutter kick. I 
felt completely anonymous— happy moron, me! Actu- 
ally, I wasn't the least bit anonymous, although my 
family encouraged me in this wild surmise. My sister 
tells me that my red bathing cap, bobbing about in 
the water, was invariably pointed out to bystanders. 
"See the little girl in the red cap? Would you believe 
it, she only has one leg!" 

The same was true of tennis, which I learned in 
semisecrecy. Father taught me in the early morning 
hours when the courts were unpopular. My father 
didn't permit me to luxuriate in a lot of fancy com- 
plexes, but he was sympathetic with my reluctance 
to display physical clumsiness. Tennis presents more 

24 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

limitations for an amputee than swimming. The basic 
constraint is the necessity of holding one crutch with 
just the upper arm, leaving a hand free to manipulate 
a racket. I heard of a man with a left leg amputation 
who played tennis with only one crutch. I always used 
two since I am both right-handed and right-crutched 
and could not control both a racket and a completely 
weight-bearing crutch with one arm. 

In spite of restrictions, I did fairly well at tennis as 
a child. I even competed, with average success, in 
a few junior tournaments. This brief period of minor 
distinction was not the result of exceptional skill, how- 
ever. It was rather the happy aftermath of the ad- 
vantage of earlier and better instruction than my 
contemporaries. Father was a very able tennis ama- 
teur. He was infinitely patient in developing in me 
a good serve and a strong, deep-court drive to offset 
my inadequate technique at the net. In playing tennis, 
I discovered that it is essential to hug the Serving 
line. It is easy to run forward, but not backward, on 
crutches. I am completely vulnerable at the net or 
even mid-court where a lob over my head spells 
defeat. I can't readily retreat to get it on the bounce, 
and the alternative, a high aerial stroke, invariably 
makes me drop a crutch. 

I enjoy tennis very much, but stacking up all the 
good points of my game against the poor ones, I come 
out a mediocre performer. "A good, average housewife 

25 



OUT ON A LIMB 

tennis player," someone dubbed me— and that is no 
enviable distinction. I usually compete with people 
who are better than I, so am rarely victorious— which 
is perhaps just as well. 

Friends who know me, and with whom I play fre- 
quently, don't care whether I win or lose. We just play 
tennis. Some of them avoid cutting and lobs because 
it keeps our game more rallying, but they are in no 
way offensively patronizing to me. 

Pit a stranger against me, however— especially a 
male stranger— and he will methodically do one of 
two things, according to his basic character. He will 
make the gallant gesture and let me win— which is 
easily detected and humiliating. Or, he will kill him- 
self before admitting defeat by a one-legged woman. 

I once confronted across a net, by the conniving 
conspiracy of some school friends, a boy who was 
notoriously cocky on the tennis court. The essence 
of the cunning plot was that I must defeat this self- 
advertising fire-eater so ignominiously and completely 
that he would never again hold up his arrogant head. 
I had no confidence in my ability to do this and, 
frankly, neither did my conspiring boy friends. It 
was such a superb scheme, however, that they were 
all willing to cooperate on its success. They concluded 
that if I won, it would be magnificent irony— a baby 
stealing candy from a man, for a change. 

Two boys were assigned to pound away at my 

26 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

backhand for a week, and spies reported my unsus- 
pecting enemy's weaknesses and strengths. He was 
definitely not the ball of fire he advertised, but he 
was better than I, it was mournfully agreed. However, 
everyone hoped that I could at least give him enough 
competition to make him feel foolish. I was pledged 
to outplay myself, even if I folded in complete col- 
lapse. 

I didn't even know Charlie, the victim, but it all 
seemed solemnly important to me at the time. I was 
fifteen, and the prime-mover in the plot was a very 
handsome muscular gent of seventeen for whose 
smallest favor I would gladly have given my last leg. 

By the most contrived casualness, I was introduced 
to Charlie at the tennis courts, where he was loudly 
quoting what Bill Tilden said to him and what smart 
repartee he handed Bill. The game was arranged. We 
had decided to contract for only one set, as my well- 
wishers in their wildest dreams, didn't hope I'd last 
longer than that. 

In analyzing mine and my opponent's weaknesses, 
one great big one was overlooked. The outcome of 
that game was not traceable to technique and tenacity 
and my newly polished backhand, although all these 
helped, no doubt. The game was won on temper- 
both mine and Charlie's. To start with, The Cock's 
first sentence contained fighting words, as far as I 
was concerned. He said, with a patronizing air, "Sure, 

27 



OUT ON A LIMB 

I'll take her on if you guys don't want to bother. 
I don't mind a bit." 

I let this go by unchallenged. I merely seethed. 
Then he suggested that he should be handicapped 
if he played me. 'Til give you fifteen," he offered 
pompously. This was red flag to my bull! 

"Pooh! I'll give you thirty," I counteroffered. This 
was red flag to his bull! 

We marched out on the court as mad as if we'd 
just blacked each other's eyes. Temper warms up my 
reflexes, but it completely melted Charlie's. He be- 
longed to the racket-throwing persuasion. 

I must have been dropped on my head as a baby. 
I can't imagine any other explanation for squandering 
exertion as extravagantly as I did on that occasion. I 
wouldn't work that hard today if I were promised 
the Davis Cup for keeps. Somehow, I got the psychotic 
notion embedded in my half-a-mind that nothing 
matter so much as beating Charlie. 

As soon as Charlie and I spun for serve, all the 
tennis games in progress on the other courts stopped 
immediately, and the players became our spectators. 
They all belonged in my camp and they helped me 
by none-too-sporting maneuvers. They worked poor 
Charlie into impotent fury by catcalls and other im- 
pertinences. 

When he missed a shot or netted a serve, they'd 
all yell, "What's s'matter, got a Charlie— Horse?" This 

28 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

was regarded in our high school intellectual circles as 
overpoweringly witty. Everyone hooted and howled. 

"Maybe you need some crutches, Charlie!" 

"Fault!" they'd yell before Charlie's serves even 
bounced. To ensure a modicum of fair play, I had to 
call all the shots myself. 

In spite of the tremendous nuisance value of my 
audience and the demoralizing effect on Charlie of 
his own temper, I had a desperate time beating him. 
We ran the set, most of the games long deuce-score 
ordeals, to twelve-ten before I won. 

When it was over, my breath was coming in rattling 
gasps and I looked like a dripping hot beet just out 
of a stew pot and dragged home by an insensitive 
cat. Charlie walked off the court and broke up his 
racket by bashing it against a steel post. He wasn't 
a very lofty character. 

I rode a brief wave of delirious ecstasy while a 
crowd of what I regarded as exceedingly smooth boys 
banged me on my aching back and shouted my praises. 
Then I staggered home to soak my weary heroic 
bones in a hot tub. 

Father peered at me over his paper as I came in 
and collapsed on the davenport. 

"Good God!" he gasped. Father was not a swearing 
man so I must have resembled a sister of Grim Death. 
"What in a holy name have you been doing?" 

29 



OUT ON A LIMB 

"I beat Charlie/' I puffed proudly. "Been practicing 
for over a week to do it." 

"Well— you look as if you A been beaten— by a 
bunch of strong-armed thugs. Why was it so important 
to beat Charlie?" 

"Because he's so darned cocky— that's why. Jerry 
and Frazier and Donald Manker and some other kids 
thought it up and planned the whole thing." 

"Why didn't Frazier beat him?" Father asked with 
deliberate denseness. "Frazier's the best player in 
high school." 

"Father!" I groaned. "That wouldn't have meant 
anything. It had to be me." 

"Oh— because you're a girl. I see." Father again 
used his annoying simple-minded ruse. "Why didn't 
Helen Fitzgerald take on this Charlie? She's twice the 
tennis player you are. She could have beaten him 
without getting apoplexy." 

"Oh, for goodness' sake, Father, are you dumb or 
something? Can't you see how much worse this dope 
would feel having me beat him?" 

"I get it." Father sighed deeply. "Well, all I can 
say is that I'm disappointed in you." 

"Disappointed in me! Every single person in this 
whole town thinks I'm wonderful, that's all!" 

"Well, I don't!" Father snapped. "I thought you'd 
long since decided it wasn't sporting to take advantage 
of people because of your crutches." 

30 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 

"Father— for heaven's sake, what's the matter with 
you? I didn't take advantage of him. L beat him fair 
and square. He played just as hard as he could. The 
score was twelve-ten— that shows you. The kids called 
a lot of the shots wrong but I corrected every time in 
Charlie's favor. And he offered me a fifteen handicap 
but I threw it right back in his face." 

"You certainly salted his wounds, didn't you?" 

I stared, incredulous, at Father. 

"You know—" Father paused to frown at me. "You 
present a very complex moral problem and I don't 
have any good precedents to follow in rearing you 
properly. But of this I am convinced: you took greater 
advantage of that boy today than if you'd frankly 
cheated him. You had a physical and personality 
advantage over him that must have made his defeat 
insufferable. If he'd beaten you twelve-ten, you'd 
have walked off the court the victor, just the 
same." 

"That's absolutely silly!" I protested, although this 
was true and I knew it. We'd counted on just that 
in our ingenious plot. 

"It's complicated, I grant you, but not silly. This 
isn't complicated, however. I'm glad you can swim 
and play tennis and jride a horse, but the only reason 
I'm glad is because these things are fun. That's why 
you and everyone else is supposed to do them. When 

31 



OUT ON A LIMB 

you play a game just to demonstrate what hot stuff 
you are on your crutches, it's time you quit and took 
up china painting, as your grandmother would have 
you do. Remember Grandma and your first roller 
skates? She was afraid you'd join a carnival if you 
learned to skate. Well— for my money, you were too 
close to the carnival for comfort today." 

"Honestly, Father, you surprise me!" I protested 
even as my mind touched the peculiarly devious truth 
toward which he was leading me. "I suppose you just 
never want me to win anything," I continued per- 
versely. 

"Of course, I want you to win— but only the game. 
Now, beat it! Take a bath and go to bed. Get out of 
my sight. I can't stand you." 

I started to cry as I left the room. 

"By the way, you must have played inspired tennis 
today," Father called after me. 

"I was hot, all right. I played much better than 
I am able to play." 

"Hum. . . ." Father sighed with what seemed al- 
most wistfulness. "I wouldn't have minded seeing 
that game." 

"You'd have put a stop to it though, I suppose— 
You and your ideas!" 

"That's right," agreed Father, "I would have." 

He was furious enough with me to cheerfully shake 

32 



BEST FOOT FORWARD 



out my molars. But at the same time, reluctantly and 
in spite of himself, he was proud. The ethics of being 
crippled were, I decided, exceedingly complicated 
and obscure. But clear enough, nevertheless, that I 
never bragged to anyone about beating Charlie. 



S3 



CHAPTER IV 

The Leg and I 

Even before I'd mastered crutches, I was restlessly 
eager for the day that I'd trot smartly down the 
street on an artificial leg. Enterprising companies 
which dealt in mechanical kickers, from Minneapolis 
to San Francisco, apparently had alert spies in the 
field, or more probably, they subscribed to clipping 
bureaus that gave them immediate notice of accidents 
resulting in amputations. Anyway, before I was well 
out from under the anesthetic, I was deluged with 
literature that described some miraculous wares. The 
family censored my incoming mail to protect me 
from this advertising matter. However, much of it 
arrived in plain envelopes and the nurses occasionally 
slipped up and delivered it to me. Contrary to parental 
expectation that this material might upset me, it was 
like most contraband reading and I reveled in it. 

I hadn't been home from the hospital very long 
before slightly limping salesmen began calling on 
Father. It is customary for artificial limb companies 
to employ men who can make practical and personal 
demonstrations. 

34 



THE LEG AND I 

My parents, like me, had no idea in mind except 
to get me onto an artificial leg as promptly as possible. 
It was our complete expectation that I would go 
through life with two legs— one detachable. Crutches 
were only a temporary substitute to keep me ambu- 
latory while I waited impatiently for over a year, on 
the advice of my surgeon, before being fitted. 

This delay was undoubtedly unfortunate. It was 
responsible in great part, I am sure, for the fact that 
I habitually walk on crutches today. During that year 
my yellow pine sticks became almost anatomical. 
For all practical purposes they were as good as grafted 
under my arms. 

However well I walked on crutches, I was still 
convinced that I would do much better on a leg. 
I was fretful to get going. Father studied all the 
brochures carefully, interviewed the salesmen, and 
solicited impartial advice wherever he could get any. 
There was only one artificial-leg user in our town, a 
recently handicapped woman of about fifty-five. 
Mother and Father called on her but she was not 
introduced to me because my parents were afraid 
her ineptitude would discourage me. 

I read all the success stories in the advertising 
pamphlets and gazed with awed admiration on the 
cuts of legless wonders who endorsed the various 
appliances. My choice was a concern which claimed 
as one of their happy customers a cowboy, a one- 

35 



OUT ON A LIMB 

legger, photographed with two guns attached to his 
belt. I somehow dreamed up the notion that the 
guns came, like premiums, with all purchases. It was 
an appealing misconception and sold me completely 
on that company. 

Father, however, was not as romantically inclined. 
I grew very impatient with his deliberation. He finally 
selected an excellent small firm in Oakland, California, 
to fashion my first prosthesis. They were reliable; their 
product was sound— even if they couldn't claim any 
gun-lugging clients. Moreover, Oakland was the most 
conveniently located city for me to go for fittings. It 
was only a scant hundred miles away. 

A very easy-stepping representative from the com- 
pany called on us to make preliminary arrangements. 
He not only was minus a leg— he was minus two. My 
eyes bulged when he rolled up his trousers and dis- 
played his artificial limbs. No gentleman had ever 
rolled up his trouser legs in our parlor before. Much 
more fascinating than his exhibitionism, however, was 
the fact that he had his socks held up, not with 
garters, but with thumbtacks. The pleasant picture 
immediately crossed my mind— me, sitting in the 
midst of an admiring circle, pounding nails into my 
leg while my horrified audience waited breathlessly 
for me to bleed. 

The salesman was very much on his timber toes. 
He was jovial and lively. He even rakishly grabbed 

36 



THE LEG AND I 

my startled sister and waltzed her around the room 
to some vocal "tum-te-tahs" that were vaguely Strauss- 
ish. 

If this remarkable sprite could cavort so impres- 
sively on two artificial legs, what couldn't I do with 
only one? I visualized myself on a flying trapeze— a 
member of the Russian Ballet with a fancy profes- 
sional name like Marca Markavitz— disguised as a 
brave drummer boy marching off to the wars— a cow- 
girl with the coveted two guns. . . . 

The salesman didn't call my attention to his sites 
of amputation. He had both his natural knees. Re- 
grettably, the great advantage of a surviving knee is 
usually skimmed over lightly or ignored when artificial 
limbs are being advertised or when morale is being 
lifted by its bootstraps. 

A great wave of slick stories has pounded the 
public recently in which disabled soldiers bounce out 
of their beds, strap on artificial legs, and promptly 
dance off with pretty nurses. In one such stirring piece 
of amazing fiction, I recall a wounded veteran, with 
some trying complexes and a new wooden leg, who 
was lured onto the dance floor by a very swish female 
morale-lifter. She was a magnificent pin-up type, 
graceful and svelte, and she danced like a veritable 
Pavlova. She not only affected a miraculous cure of 
the poor boy's complexes, she practically put blood 
and bones in his wooden leg. A few days later, the 

37 



OUT ON A LIMB 

susceptible soldier, cheek to cheek with this Song-of- 
Bernadette healer, was also tripping the light fantastic 
like a gilded playboy from a follies extravaganza. 
Only then did this deceitful slick dish break down 
shyly, under the influence of moonlight, and confess 
that she too had an artificial leg. The soldier nearly 
died of the shock— and even I, who wasn't there 
and just read the story, threw up! 

Lots of people dance on artificial legs and dance 
well. But the smoothest of these talented unipeds 
invariably are those who still retain a God-given knee. 
Whether the authors assigned to whip up these fan- 
tasies exaggerate from well-intentioned motive or 
from ignorance or from both, I don't know. It is 
much more blasting to morale, however, to discover, 
only after bitter experience, how superior a real knee 
is to a mechanical one. In my opinion, it would help 
rather than hurt morale to point this out. 

I reread the story of the one-legged blonde opera- 
tor—no limper she! I pointed out each word with 
my index finger and sounded it phonetically— to see 
if even once the author hinted as to the site of this 
remarkable girl's amputation. I would have come close 
to adoring that glamorous heroine— and on feminine 
principle I'm against glamorous women— if she'd 
announced with forthright candor, "I've still got my 
knee, you know, and I'm so astonishingly adept that 
I don't have so much as a distinguished limp." 

38 



THE LEG AND I 

Also, I sometimes toss fretfully through the black 
night speculating about the Yank. He was supposedly 
terrifically red-blooded American. Didn't he look at 
her legs? Maybe he had a hollow head, as well as 
a hollow leg. The author didn't say. 

But to return to our parlor demonstrator, he took 
me out on the lawn and kicked a football way down 
the street. "That's what you'll be doing one of these 
days," he assured me. He got much more kick out of 
his leg, however, than I ever did out of mine. 

Inside the house again, he took all my measure- 
ments. He traced the shape of my surviving leg as 
a pattern for my new model. He gave Mother in- 
structions for binding my stump with elasticized 
bandage— an uncomfortable but apparently necessary 
procedure for shrinking it to fit the socket of a pros- 
thesis. Father agreed to take me to Oakland for a 
two-week stay when the appliance neared completion 
so that the final fitting would be exactly right, and 
so that I could learn from experts the technique of 
walking. 



Father drove us to Berkeley, where Mother, Bernice, 
and I were to be the guests of some old friends. Father 
returned home to keep things going at the office and 
fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes. 

Every day Mother and I took a trolley ride to the 

39 



OUT ON A LIMB 

leg makers in Oakland. It was a fascinating place. 
Every employee, from the owner down to the lowliest 
chore boy, wore some sort of a prosthesis. This situa- 
tion has been common to every orthopedic appliance 
concern I have visited throughout my lifetime. 

When Bernice went with us, she and I played an 
engrossing game while waiting in the reception room. 
Whenever anyone— employee or customer— walked 
through, we tried to beat each other calling the 
handicaps. "No legs'— "One leg"— "One arm"— we 
whispered. It was a variation on "Beaver"; twenty 
points for a legless woman; ten points for a legless 
man, etc. 

My new limb was made of well-seasoned English 
willow, a material that has apparently proved very 
successful. Every leg I have ever purchased, from a 
variety of makers, was contrived of that same wood. 

I had presented a right shoe to the manufacturers 
so that they could build the new foot to size and 
adjust the anl^Je mechanism to heel height, but we 
forgot all about stockings. I habitually wore half socks, 
and I felt somewhat crestfallen and old-fashioned 
when Mother dashed out and bought me the long, 
ribbed white cotton stockings necessary to conceal 
my new steel joints. My first leg didn't have a hip- 
control belt. This efficient device was not yet invented 
and also, I had no consequential hips at the age of 
ten. I wore a rather complicated over-the-shoulders 

40 



THE LEG AND I 

harness onto which the appliance was fastened by 
snap hooks. 

From the beginning I managed quite well. Every 
day I paraded up and down a back room at the shop, 
supporting myself on the hand rods of a walking lane 
which had a mirror at one end so that I could watch 
myself. I wasn't particularly impressed. I was sur- 
prised that I limped. A very kindly one-legged man 
who also had a thigh amputation, supervised me. I 
tended to throw my leg stiffly offside, avoiding the 
complication of the knee. Patiently, he taught me 
to maintain proper posture and how to swing the 
leg to facilitate the knee motion. 

I was finally permitted to wear the leg back to 
Berkeley, although I used my crutches as safety props 
on the trip, and we went by taxi rather than trolley. 
Although everyone was delighted with my aptitude 
and progress, we were advised to remain in Berkeley 
a few more days to be certain that no hip or groin 
pain developed to indicate an improper fit. 

For practice, every morning I walked round and 
round the dining-room table, an excellent training 
place since the table edge served as an emergency 
support. Every afternoon Bernice and I went out for 
a little walk. If I grew tired, she put an arm around 
me as an auxiliary aid on the way home. It became 
easier every day, and our expeditions were daily farther 
afield. I figured with unwarranted optimism that it 

41 



OUT ON A LIMB 

was only a matter of time before the leg would begin 
running with me. 

One afternoon we were on our usual stroll through 
the university campus when an "unusual" California 
rain began to fall. We were in danger of being 
drenched, and since my leg hadn't yet started to run, 
our progress was slow and laborious. In hurrying, I 
slipped precariously on the pavement. The new knee 
was cutting perverse capers. 

My sister had on a new and very becoming pink 
challis dress. Bernice was fifteen and very pretty and 
consequently thought constantly about her appearance. 
"My dress will be ruined!" she yowled. 

"I'll tell you what!" I was inspired. "I'll take off 
the leg and hop home." I was an old hand— or rather, 
an old foot— at hopping. 

Providentially, the streets were pretty well deserted, 
since sensible pedestrians had all sought shelter. 
Against her better judgment, Bernice, who was a strict 
conformist, agreed. I hid behind some bushes, lifted 
up my dress, and unhooked my hindrance. Shades of 
a good sadistic ax murder— Bernice then slung the 
very realistic stockinged and shoed leg over her 
shoulder! She glanced furtively in all directions, and 
we started home as briskly as the somewhat unusual 
circumstances permitted. 

We must have presented a startling picture. Cer- 
tainly the staring astonished policeman at our first 

42 



THE LEG AND I 

street crossing looked as if he'd just had a run-in 
with a ghost. 

Not by design, I am sure, but by sheer confusion, 
he chose his perfect lines. "What's coming off around 
here?" he demanded gruffly. 

Bernice, in her acute embarrassment, promptly 
dropped her encumbrance. It was her first guilty 
encounter with The Law. 

The policeman leaned down and warily touched 
the leg before picking it up. "Thank the Holy Mother 
—it's wood!" he said. His breath smelled somewhat 
peculiar, which may have had some bearing on his 
next and, to us, incomprehensible speech. "Cold day, 
you know. Been trying to keep warm— but no matter. 
This break off or something?" 

Bernice explained fully and apologetically while 
her pink dress wilted in the rain. 

The policeman propped my leg against a wall and 
put us under a store awning. He then talked into one 
of those fascinating boxed phones attached to a light 
post. In a few minutes a Black Maria pulled up at 
the curb. Bernice and I were chauffeured home at 
the city's expense. 

Not being a shy little mite, even caught out with 
my leg off, I suggested to the driver that it would 
be nice if he blew his siren and also made a little 
better time. 

"O.K., kid," he agreed cheerfully. "This don't happen 

43 



OUT ON A LIMB 

every day on my beat. I expect you could call it an 
emergency." 

With satisfactory fanfare, we sped through the 
quiet Berkeley streets. 

"Isn't it lucky I took off my leg?" I whispered to 
Bernice. "I always wanted to ride in a police car. 
Let's try it in Oakland tomorrow, shall we?" 

"Oh, Louise!" my sister gasped. "I'm going to tell 
Mama on you. You are a very wicked little girl." 

For this, I suppose, there was no really sound argu- 
ment. Since that day, I've never ridden behind a 
siren. Nevertheless, there's my formula for turning 
the trick. And like any ethical scientist, I hereby 
present it to the world. 



44 



CHAPTER V 

Off with Her Leg 

Home again, I called in all the neighborhood gang 
to see the new leg and listen to me brag about 
our Berkeley adventures. However, the new kicker 
was only a one-day wonder, since it wasn't some- 
thing that could be passed around for everyone to 
ride on. 

I limped off to school on the following Monday, 
without so much as a cane. I was an exceptionally 
good walker, but walking was the only thing of 
consequence I ever accomplished on the leg. I no 
longer went places in a dashing hurry, and either I 
or the leg stayed home when long hikes, or fishing in 
the creek, were the attractions of the day. 

Although Grandma sighed her pleasure and said, 
"She looks like a little lady now. We may even be 
able to marry her off when she grows up," to me, the 
only tangible advantage of the leg was that I had 
my arms free. When I swatted a baseball, I was able 
to put much more umph into it than I had on the 
more restraining crutches. However, I now suffered 

45 



OUT ON A LIMB 

the indignity of having someone run bases for me. 
The attachment was superbly adapted to volley ball 
which requires little active leg work but lots of aerial 
defense. 

Whenever a new child showed up at grammar 
school I startled him goggle-eyed by pushing thumb- 
tacks into my leg. (Mother refused to let me use nails 
and a hammer. After all, the leg represented a sub- 
stantial investment of about one hundred and twenty- 
five dollars.) I could also slip my stump out of the 
leg's socket and twine the leg around my neck. This 
was good box office, and I often did a routine of 
grotesque contortions that passed in my social circle 
for very accomplished eccentric dancing. 

For a while the new leg accentuated to the point 
of real discomfort my "phantom limb." This is a 
curious sensation that most amputees experience in 
various degrees. The stimulation of the sensory nerves 
in the stump results in the sensation that the ampu- 
tated member is still there. 

I was in the hospital when I first felt the phantom 
limb. It didn't, however, astonish me in the least. I 
had just recently made a prayerful suggestion to Jesus, 
whom I knew by reputation to be very good at miracles 
and tremendously compassionate of even a poor small 
sparrow's suffering. I thought He might oblige by 
doing a small job for me along the line of spontaneous 
regeneration. When I felt my toes under the sheets— 

46 



OFF WITH HER LEG 

somewhat numb and prickly as if they'd been sat on 
too long but nevertheless there— I rang for the nurse. 
I asked her to pull back the blankets for me to see. 

"My leg just grew back," I announced without tax- 
ing my faith a whit. After all, this wasn't anywhere 
near as big a job as bringing back Lazarus. 

"Poor, poor little dear— no," she said. 

"Oh, yes," I assured her. "Jesus did it." 

That was when I learned about the phantom limb 
and revised my expectations for divine intervention. 

Off and on, I felt it in varying degrees. It usually 
accompanied fatigue, and I could also feel it merely 
by thinking about my missing extremity. The sensa- 
tion was almost constant, however, during the first 
few weeks I wore the new leg. It was so realistic that, 
without thinking, I frequently leaned down and 
scratched my prickly pseudo-toes. 

In a very short time this uncomfortable phase passed, 
and the new limb gave me neither psychological 
nor physical distress of any kind. I can still summon 
my specter, but it rarely comes uncalled. 

In other ways the leg was well behaved. Nothing 
mechanical went wrong that a screw driver or an oil 
can couldn't promptly remedy. 

Then, after only three months, my mother noticed 
that my right shoulder was sagging. It wasn't the leg's 
fault. I was growing— and like a weed apparently. Off 
we went to Oakland, where I was once more measured 

47 



OUT ON A LIMB 

carefully. We left the leg to be lengthened. Even for 
adult users, it is a great advantage to live in a city 
large enough to support an artificial-leg shop where 
quick and efficient service is always available for 
repairs and adjustments, v 

The leg was in Oakland three weeks, during which 
interim I went back to the more lively crutches. This 
was the first step in my reversion. When the leg 
returned by express I gave it a rather frosty welcome, 
but I donned it again. 

The lengthening had been done in the shank only, 
and a solid rather than a hollow piece had been in- 
serted. The result was a much heavier load than I 
was accustomed to. Also, as a consequence of extend- 
ing only the lower leg, the over-all device wasn't 
quite properly proportioned aesthetically to my natural 
leg. I wasn't satisfied, but I wore it. 

In a few months, my posture was once more be- 
ginning to show mild distortion. The local shoemaker 
helped me temporarily by putting a slight raise on 
the right shoe sole. But Nature being as one-tracked 
as she is, I kept right on growing. 

When another alteration was again inevitable, 
Father decided after consultation with factory experts 
that I'd better have a completely new leg. The family 
budget had to be revised to accommodate itself to 
two legs a year instead of one. Father was an ill-paid 
social worker. I know that both he and Mother went 

48 



OFF WITH HER LEG 

without new winter coats to compensate for this 
added expense, but they never admitted it nor be- 
grudged it. They would have mortgaged our house 
gladly, I am sure, so that I could luxuriate in new legs. 

Two weeks in Oakland appealed to me much more 
than the prospect of sporting the new model. The 
handwriting was already on the wall but we were all 
too stubbornly attached to our preconceived notions 
to read it. 

For another year the warfare waged between my 
physical growth and my leg's inelasticity— with my 
active athletic ambitions throwing their weight in 
with my physical growth. With each lapse in use, dur- 
ing the leg's necessary absences in Oakland for repairs 
or lengthening, I grew more attached to my crutches. 
Finally, I pleaded with my parents to let me abandon 
the appliance completely. They agreed, and we hung 
it on a nail in the garage, not knowing the proper 
disposal of a defunct leg. There it stayed for years- 
coming into prominence only on very rare occasions 
when we children used it as a prop in some macabre 
bits of imaginative play. 

It was indispensable in a "mystifying" magic per- 
formance in which I was a full financial partner with 
a little tow-headed boy, Chadwick Augustus Barnes, 
named for an admirable relative on his mother's side 
who happened to own a bank. Chadwick's friends 
called him Gus and his enemies called him Fish Face. 

49 



OUT ON A LIMB 

He looked like the banker. Gus was the brains of our 
corporation. He wore a big black mustache and did 
card tricks inherited from his father, a famous parlor 
bore. He also turned water into unpalatable wine, 
with the help of a Junior Chemical Set, presented to 
him one Christmas by his aunt who lived in Detroit, 
well removed from the foul smells her generosity 
stirred up in California. It was during the high point 
of Gus's Houdini buffoonery that I figured and earned 
my half of the pins and pennies. This was a modest 
variation of the sawing of the beautiful damsel in 
twain. Gus sawed off my leg— or at any rate he made 
sawing motions, accompanied by an effective buzzing 
noise which, in his cleverness, he could accomplish 
without moving his mouth. He then effected the 
severance. Of course, this never fooled our audience 
any more than the card tricks fooled them, but they 
always savored the savage artistry of Gus's technique 
and my own dramatic contribution which consisted 
of anguished groans and wails. 

My mother didn't exactly condone this hanky-panky 
but she tolerated it in the name of harmless childish 
fun. However, she drew a firm line and withdrew the 
leg from its promising theatrical career following 
another little drama in which it was featured. 

There was a bad three-car smashup on the highway 
south of town one afternoon. Although I was perishing 
to run down there and get a glimpse of the gore, I 

50 



OFF WITH HER LEG 

was not permitted to. Mother had the strange aber- 
ration that such things weren't proper sights for a 
nice little girl. The aberration, of course, was that I 
was a nice little girl. 

"You just never let me have any fun, Mama," I 
complained. 

"You have plenty of fun," Mother said. 

Goodness! I did too. By the end of the day I had 
had so much fun, I took my spanking stoically and 
still figured I'd had the best of the bargain. 

Several of the brighter boys on our block outwitted 
their parents and did get a look at the demolished 
cars. Regrettably, the bodies, both live and dead, had 
been removed. These delightful little lads came back 
from the wreck with their imaginative scheme. It was 
beautiful and appealed thoroughly to my fine, sensitive 
nature. 

We worked in Father's respectable garage perform- 
ing our grim task. We dressed my leg in an old white 
stocking and shoe. We borrowed a bottle of catsup 
from Mother, without a by-her-leave, and splattered 
it liberally over the stocking. Then we stowed this 
charming "souvenir of the accident" into a carton and 
lugged it around the neighborhood, displaying it as 
something we just happened to see lying by the road- 
side at the scene of the crash. 

Of course, my leg was fairly prominent locally, but 
even so, on this occasion it invariably brought forth 

51 



OUT ON A LIMB 

a feminine scream and a double-take before it was 
recognized. Several slightly neurotic ladies were 
somewhat upset over the proceedings and made their 
disquietude known to my mother. 

The only irony in this story is that I was the only 
participant who was spanked. No matter what trouble 
that leg ever got itself into, I had to take the rap. 



Had I been adult when my accident occurred— or 
even sixteen— I probably would have walked grace- 
fully and happily through life with the constant help 
and the aesthetic advantage of an artificial leg. Cer- 
tainly I approve of them, and I really wish this had 
been the case. As it was, the best prosthesis in the 
world simply wasn't able to keep up with me. It is 
regretful that those youthful years on crutches set 
this situation into a permanent pattern. I have worn 
legs since then. According to the manufacturers, 1 
walked exceptionally well. I have even been called 
upon to demonstrate on a few occasions for discour- 
aged users. I make this boast not out of vanity but 
merely to point out that it isn't any sane reason that 
keeps me off an artificial leg. On a leg I feel con- 
spicuous and crippled. On crutches I don't. I ought 
to have my head examined. 



52 



CHAPTER VI 

The Road to Buenos Aires 

Early in my teens our family migrated from the 
San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles where Father 
was offered a much better job. None of us wanted 
to go. Father could orate stirringly, at the drop of any 
expensive suggestion, on the subject, "Money Isn't 
Important." My sister and I habitually took him to 
task for this flimsy whimsy. But when we brought up 
his old saw about money being just negligible green 
stuff, as a supporting argument against moving, Father 
got very tight-lipped. In rebuttal, he offered another 
of his quaint lectures— "The Educational Opportunities 
for My Daughters." Frankly, I suspect Father changed 
positions for no reason more complicated than the 
more comfortable weight of his new pay envelope. 
Since he was in the service of humanity, however, 
such heresy was never hinted. 

Whatever the reason, Los Angeles became our new 
home. It was for me, anyway, a very difficult adjust- 
ment. I was no longer a novelty in our small town. 
Everyone was accustomed to me and my crutches and 

53 



OUT ON A LIMB 

knew my complete history right back to Mother's 
first labor pain. But here was a huge city of strangers, 
all staring at me, or so I surmised. My surmise was not 
too exaggerated either, for the more curious often 
stopped me on the street and made blatant inquiry. 
"My poor girl, whatever happened to you?" 

Strange men offered me rides. I am sorry to admit 
that probably not one of these misunderstood gentle- 
men had so much as a mild flutter of bad intention 
toward me. In my middy blouse marching myself to 
high school on my crutches, I am pretty sure I didn't 
set the baser instincts spinning. Having been warned, 
however, that a city man behind the wheel of an 
automobile was definitely not the same cozy dish of 
tea that my father was, I always went into a panic 
when a car pulled to the curb and some harmless man 
stuck a head out and yelled, "Little girl, can't I drive 
you to school?" I refused always, just as promptly as 
my chattering jaws would allow, and at the same time 
I backed off down the street as fast as I could navigate 
in reverse. 

I was so accustomed to treatment exactly like that 
accorded all the other boys and girls in our town that 
it didn't occur to me that I was singled out for gratui- 
tous transportation because I was crippled. This was 
surely the evil city I'd been warned against. 

With some reticence I finally broached the delicate 
problem to my sister, who was by this time a very 

54 



THE ROAD TO BUENOS AIRES 

worldly freshman at U.S.C. I dared not mention it to 
Mother who supposedly had known the facts of life 
for some time but was still acutely embarrassed over 
them. 

"Are the white slavers after you, too?" I began 
timidly. 

"Louise!" My sister grabbed my shoulder and shook 
me in her horrified astonishment. "What are you say- 
ing? Of course they aren't after me! What do you 
mean?" She paused in her tirade long enough to 
reassure herself by looking me up and down. "They 
couldn't be after you!" 

Bernice didn't often give me her unwavering atten- 
tion, but I had it now. "Yes, they are so after me," 
I insisted with just a touch of pride. "And you'd better 
believe it, so there!" I proceeded to tell her how almost 
every day some sinister fiend, disguised in respectable 
pin-stripe or navy serge, pulled up and offered me 
a ride. 

Bernice released her breath with a long, relieved 

sigh- 

"Do women ever offer you rides?" she demanded, 
completely calm again. 

"Oh, yes— sometimes women offer me rides, too. I 
get in with them. They drive me to school." 

"Did it ever occur to you that maybe the men want 
to drive you to school too, you little goose?" 

"Oh, they say they do— but I wasn't born yesterday." 

55 



OUT ON A LIMB 

I squinted my eyes to give the impression of vast 
sophistication. 

Bernice proceeded thoroughly to blast my ego. "It's 
because of your crutches, silly. They're just being nice 
to you." 

"Oh, my goodness!" I gasped, remembering with 
embarrassment the awful imprecations I had heaped 
on several innocent heads. It suddenly seemed so 
simple. "I might as well ride then, I suppose." 

"Oh, no!" Bernice said firmly. "Better not ride. 
Heaven knows, I think you're quite safe." It didn't 
sound flattering the way she put it. "Still there are 
some queer characters in the world. Just say, 'No, 
thank you/ but for goodness' sake, be polite about it!" 

The very next day a man offered me a ride, and in 
consequence of his kindly insight, made a great con- 
tribution to both my transportation problem and my 
popularity. He pulled up, tendered his invitation, and 
was refused— this time with elaborate courtesy. 

"Your mother doesn't let you ride with strangers, 
does she?" he asked. "I don't blame her either, but I 
go directly by your school and I'd very much like to 
give you a lift. See those boys coming down the street 
there? Do you know them?" 

I was too new to know anybody. "No," I admitted, 
"but that middle one's the captain of the football team 
at high school." 

"If I offer them a ride too and they get in, will you? 

56 



THE ROAD TO BUENOS AIRES 

I'm a frail fellow and those three lads can finish me 
off thoroughly, if I get fresh." He laughed. 

This was the first of my would-be abductors that 
I'd ever paused to study. He didn't look the least bit 
like a disguised procurer. As a matter of fact, he 
looked very nice although not as exciting as his prede- 
cessors who I had imagined were tapping me for the 
life of shame. 

"Hey, fellows!" he yelled. "How's about a ride to 
school?" 

They came running and leaped in. I got in, too, 
still a bit wary. The trip wasn't the Road to Buenos 
Aires, however. We were deposited without mortal 
struggle at the high school. 

From then on the captain of the football team said 
"Hi" whenever we met. It helped my social standing, 
as a newcomer, no end. 

When I told Father about this, without elaborating 
on my former experiences with the white slavers, he 
gave me permission to ride with strangers who would 
pick up a whole carload. 

From then on, whenever a driver stopped and offered 
me a ride, I suggested that he also take whatever 
boys and girls were near by on the sidewalk. He was 
always amenable. Before very long no one was more 
popular as a walking companion than I. It was actually 
the way I first got acquainted in high school. 

57 



OUT ON A LIMB 

The years from fourteen to eighteen are probably 
the darkest ones that a handicapped person must 
struggle through. Adolescence is not only a period of 
mercurial moods, it is also a period of great con- 
formity. Any deviation from the norm is felt most 
acutely at this time in life. A batch of schoolgirls are 
likely to be almost monotonous in their similarity. If 
an oversize man's shirt with the tails flapping in 
the breeze is the chic rage of the hour, all the girls 
promptly rig themselves out in such monstrosities. If 
"wizard" is the momentarily approved adjective and 
anything exciting is supposed to "send you," all ado- 
lescent girls recite by rote, "It's wizard"— "It sends 
me." They only feel secure in complete conformity. 
It is much later that the equally strong urge for in- 
dividuality develops. So— during my adolescence I 
suffered inwardly because crutches weren't sufficiently 
fashionable to start a wave of amputations. 

The weight of my crutch-born individuality was 
heavy upon me. However, if I had only recognized 
the fact, it served me well. I was easy to identify. I 
could never have been a Pinkerton operator, but no 
one who met me once, forgot me— not because of 
my memorable personality and my ravishing beauty, 
but because of my crutches. In one semester in that 
large metropolitan high school of some four thousand 
students, I became almost as well known as the best 

58 



THE ROAD TO BUENOS AIRES 

quaiter-back. I was also friendly by nature and be- 
came a sure thing on a political ticket. 

I began to be nominated and elected to all kinds 
of school and club offices. Practically everyone knew 
my name and was on speaking terms with me. Also, 
I had the solid political support of all the smooth 
girls in school. They were willing to vote for me 
because they liked me, of course, but also heavily 
weighted in my favor was the fact that I was no 
Menace. They figured I'd never beat their time with 
any of the boys who rated sufficiently to serve with 
me on the Student Council. I am not obtuse enough 
to insist that my crutches alone made me "The People's 
Choice" but I do know they had a great deal to do 
with it. 

This tendency for success in student politics carried 
right through college. I got quite a reputation for 
being executive. Actually, I was about as executive 
as a spring fryer trying to outwit the man with the 
ax. I didn't actually yank myself out of this compensa- 
tory political bingeing until I was mature enough to 
see the horrible humor in Helen Hokinson's cartoons. 
I decided I'd better pull myself together or I'd turn 
out to be a "club dowager" or worse yet, a Congress- 
woman— and then, God save America! Now, even 
under the unscrupulous spell of a hypnotist, I don't 
believe my well-behaved tongue would say "Yes," if 

59 



OUT ON A LIMB 

someone asked me to serve temporarily as sixteenth 
alternate on an unimportant subcommittee. 

But in high school, dashing about managing things 
helped me a great deal psychologically. I was presi- 
dent of one thing or another twelve times before I 
graduated. But the sad truth was— I would much 
rather have been "right" than president. I was all 
wrong. 

Adolescent boys are precisely the conformists that 
adolescent girls are. My male classmates all picked 
carbon copies for girl friends. At the age when the 
height of achievement is leading a prom grand march 
with a gangly pimpled youth, I was a great gal with 
the gavel. It wasn't adequate compensation. I was 
pretty enough, all Grandmother's direst prophecies 
to the contrary. My wardrobe was tasteful and ade- 
quate and magnificently reinforced by illegal pirating 
of my sister's closet. So far as I know, I had none of 
the awful afflictions that advertisers lead one to believe 
make wallflowers out of glamour girls. However, I 
led the sort of life that prompted Mother to say, 
"Isn't it wonderful that Louise isn't boy crazy? 
Remember Bernice at that age? My goodness, we 
couldn't sweep the place clean of boys. Louise is so 
sensible." 

Dear Mama! I was about as sensible as a Mongolian 
idiot. I was just as boy crazy as Bernice, but I was 

60 



THE ROAD TO BUENOS AIRES 

infinitely more frustrated since I didn't have Bernice's 
reassuring following. 

Oh, I got my hand squeezed a few times. Boys 
took me to the movies occasionally and played tennis 
with me, and I regularly helped several classy dunder- 
heads with their homework. A couple of boys even 
kissed me when I was sixteen, but one of these was 
a Lothario who made a bet that he would kiss every 
girl in the senior class who didn't have eczema or 
buck teeth. And with the other, I suspect, kissing was 
a reflex action that came automatically with the words 
"good night." I was just a "dandy pal"— a nauseating 
phrase— to the boys. I even maneuvered dates for 
them with the ladies of their choice. But I wasn't the 
least bit pleased with my "wholesome relationships." 
For all the good it did me, moonlight might have been 
an impractical invention of the Mazda Lamp Com- 
pany. I certainly would have had one hell of a time 
becoming a juvenile delinquent. 

"Make her practice her music lessons," Grandma 
used to say. "Or teach her stenography. She'll never 
get a man." I took my second husband out to Grand- 
mother's grave a couple of years ago, just to show 
her! I heard Grandma rotating like a whirling dervish. 

However, in my teens I shared Grandma's grimmest 
expectations. I decided to be an intellectual— the toast 
of Bohemian salons! I even took to writing poetry— 
a charitable way of putting it. My effusions were of 

61 



OUT ON A LIMB 

the "Oh, Love, let us flee— our souls are stifling" school. 
I read books— uninteresting, uplifting, deep ones, with 
now and then a detective story tossed in, just to keep 
me in tune with the world. I would much rather have 
misspent my youth in riotous living. 

But, like a lot of bad-tasting medicine, all this 
dosage resulted in eventual good. The reading made 
a permanent impression on me. More important at 
the time— or so it seemed to me— I got a masculine 
following! The long hairs, who likewise had stifled 
souls, began taking an interest in me. They were 
mostly pasty-faced lads who just despised football. 
They got straight A averages in school but ran to 
drooping shoulders from carrying heavy books, and 
thick glasses from eye strain. I'd have traded them, 
three to one, for a really dangerous muscle-bound 
deadhead. However, at sixteen, a girl on crutches 
counts her blessings by quantity not quality. 

"I wonder where those boy friends of yours go at 
night?" my sister once asked. "Into dank holes? I bet 
they weren't born either— I bet they were spawned." 

"You're just jealous!" I raged. "Just because nobody 
ever admired your mind. They are brilliant, misunder- 
stood boys. They are stifled—" I ran down suddenly 
and faced reality. "Oh, Bernice— do you think, with 
only one leg, I'll ever get a really wonderful man 
without brains?" 



62 



CHAPTER VII 

Some Horses and a Husband 

IN due time I had a high school diploma proudly 
clutched in my hot little hand. As questionable 
reward for an honorable scholastic record, I was per- 
mitted to stand up on the stage on graduation day 
and deliver myself of my uplifting opinions. The 
general gist of the soul-stirring oration was, "Face life 
squarely." Recited in the safe security of the family 
circle, my collection of cliches clocked off three 
minutes to the second, the precise time allotted to 
present my philosophy to the public. However, on 
commencement day, I distinguished myself by winning 
some kind of a record and poured out my memorized 
sentiments in jive time— finishing in one minute flat. 
I suspect that my listeners went forth inspired to face 
life on the bias. 

To make the adjustment to higher learning as easy 
as possible for me, my parents packed me off to 
Pomona, a good, small, coeducational college in a 
country town. Father, with his usual studied approach 
to a problem, digested the brochures of countless 

63 



OUT ON A LIMB 

colleges and universities and carefully selected one 
with high academic standing, high moral tone, and 
no sororities. He was afraid I might not be bid to a 
sorority and would consequently have my life warped. 

By the time I was seventeen, however, it would 
have been hard to warp my life. I had tossed off 
most of my adolescent complexes and so, apparently, 
had my contemporaries. In college— such is my trust- 
ing opinion, anyway— I stood pretty solidly on my 
own personality, without either excess support or 
excess unbalance from my crutches. 

I was no raring, tearing charmer, but I don't mind 
saying I even began appealing to brainless men. In 
fact, Father says that for a year or so there, he doesn't 
think I had a nibble from anyone with an I.Q. over 
seventy— judging by their conversations. 

But, being completely perverse, I promptly started 
admiring mentality, a tendency that got completely 
out of hand, in fact. During my junior year at the 
age of nineteen, I fell flat on my face, with frightful 
coronary symptoms, for a professor. He never had a 
peaceful moment, poor man, until I had him at the 
altar three years later. From then on— he never had 
a peaceful moment until he escaped via the divorce 
court. 

He was such a nice man, quite undeserving of his 
fate. A British colonial, born in Burma, he looked, to 
my misty eyes anyway, exactly like Clive of India 

64 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

(a la Ronald Colman). He made some lasting con- 
tributions to me for which he got little substantial 
return. His mother gave me her magnificent recipe 
for Indian curry, and he, being not only proper British 
but also a professor of English, reformed my manners 
and my grammar considerably. He also taught me 
a couple of colorful bad words in Burmese and 
Hindustani. 

From my encounter with him, I also learned the 
comforting fact that no one dies of a broken heart. 
Put together and given a reasonable rest cure, an 
old ticker will get you into almost as much fascinating 
trouble as a brand-new one. 

I must have left some sort of an impression on 
him, too. I know I improved his taste in neckties, and 
apparently I didn't embitter him permanently against 
amputees. After our divorce, anyway, he started beau- 
ing a one-armed woman. 

Grandma couldn't get over my snagging a man, 
and she thought I ought to be committed to an insti- 
tution when I let him off the hook. "What are you 
thinking of!" she gasped. "What did they teach you 
in college? You ought to know that lightning never 
strikes twice in the same place. Besides," she added 
as a pious but unconvincing afterthought, "divorces 
are wicked. Still— he isn't a citizen. That would have 
parted you eventually. Kings and such like— always 
having to call on God to save them." 

65 



OUT ON A LIMB 



Exactly what Grandma meant I am not sure. She 
was an isolationist. It was her studied opinion that 
only sixth-generation Americans were admitted to 
Heaven, and even then, it helped outwit the red tape 
at the Gate if they happened to be her blood kin. 



On registration day at college, the head of the 
women's physical education department made me a 
tempting offer. "Would you like to sign up for an hour 
of rest every day, in place of required physical educa- 
tion courses? Well allocate full credit." 

Today if such a pleasant proposition were put to 
me, I would not only say "yes" without hesitation, 
I'd bring my own pillow and offer to major in the 
subject. But since I was still a little huffy about 
myself, I assured her that with some leeway in selec- 
tion I could undoubtedly fulfill my physical education 
requirements, if not to the letter, at least to the spirit 
of the law. Skipping formal gymnastics and team 
sports— which all my friends»regarded as rank privilege 
—I concentrated on swimming, riflery, archery, tennis, 
and riding. With the exception of tennis, the limitations 
of which I have explained, all these sports were very 
well adapted to my abilities. I captained my class 
swimming team and earned part of my more frivolous 
expenses at college, life-guarding the girls' swimming 
pool during open hours. I was also on the archery team. 

66 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

In riflery I was mediocre and did fairly well only in 
the prone position. If I were ever threatened by a 
fiend and had a rifle handy, I'd have to ask him 
politely to wait to be shot until I flung myself flat 
on my stomach. 

I never approximated the career of National Velvet, 
but horseback riding became my favorite recreational 
activity. Prior to college, I was on cozy terms with 
one burro and two kindly but senile retired horses 
owned by a rancher friend of ours. Freshman year, 
however, I signed up for riding classes. Miss Margaret 
Pooley, the instructress, had never confronted a prob- 
lem like me, but she was imaginative and took a very 
kindly interest in working out a technique that made 
allowances for my physical limitations. Under her 
guidance, I developed an equestrian skill that gave 
the impression of good form while breaking most of 
the time-honored rules of horsemanship. 

Also during that first year, thanks to my friendship 
with Marion Cox, an Arizona girl, who I suspect could 
talk to horses in their own language, I fell into the 
Horsy Set. This bunch of boys and girls, many of 
them from Western ranches, and some of them just 
crazy on purpose, practically slept with their boots 
on. They took me in hand. 

I think we'd gladly have occupied box stalls and 
munched a straight diet of oats. We arose at odd and 
inhuman hours and rode before breakfast, and bliss- 

67 



OUT ON A LIMB 

fully we cantered around in the moonlight. We wore 
our riding clothes right into the sacred halls of learn- 
ing. I suspect we smelled habitually like an essence 
that Saks Fifth would probably call "Fatal Stable" or 
"L'Amour Equin." Saturdays we made worshipful 
pilgrimages to various near-by horsey meccas— Carna- 
tion Farm Stables, Kellogg's Arabian Horse Farm, 
Diamond Bar Ranch, etc. We weren't even on nodding 
terms with any of the owners of California's flashy 
horseflesh, but we were chummy with all the grooms. 
We were privileged to pat some very aristocratic 
flanks. When a horse show was scheduled anywhere 
in Southern California, our little crew, without owning 
so much as a Shetland pony between us, usually had 
exhibitors' badges and occupied complimentary boxes. 
These were presented to us by some softhearted 
hostler who figured I'd never be able to climb up 
on the grandstand. None of us discouraged such 
gentle instincts. In fact, I could go becomingly 
fragile whenever the situation seemed to demand it- 
sighing and lifting my crutches wearily, as if they 
weighed two tons apiece. Father would have slain me. 
Riding is an excellent sport for an amputee although 
it does necessitate special techniques. To start with, 
there's the elementary problem of getting on the 
horse. I usually mount by having some friendly 
weight-lifter give me a leg up. Frequently I use an 
orthodox box; or with one supporting crutch, I can 

68 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

step my foot into the stirrup and swing up. The 
flashiest way for a uniped to mount is with a flying 
leap— in the manner of a cowboy in a B Western. I 
never was able to do this impressive little stunt on 
anything higher than a pony. 

One-legged and crutchless, once in the saddle, I 
stay there (Heaven helping) until my ride is over, 
unless accompanied by a stalwart companion, ready 
to assist on the remount. It is impractical to carry 
along a crutch. 

I have no knee grip. Posting a trot, therefore, is not 
a sound practice. I learned to approximate the rhythm 
and made a poor pretense at posting by lifting my 
weight from my one stirrup. Probably the most sensible 
management of the trot is to abandon the flat saddle 
and ride a Stock or a McClellan and sit the gait, 
cowboy style. 

Even better is to ride any saddle— English, Army, 
or Western— but put it on a five-gaited horse and then 
rack or canter, avoiding the trot altogether. Now and 
again a so-called "slow-gaited" horse, a natural single- 
footer, turns up. That is a splendid mount for a one- 
legged rider, especially for a beginner who can't cope 
with the stylish intelligence about signals that usually 
characterizes a five-gaited horse. 

So, pick a single-footer or a five-gaiter, but always 
make careful preliminary survey of his withers and 
spine. A one-legger requires a horse with a good 

69 



OUT ON A LIMB 

sturdy ridge for a backbone. If not, the saddle tends 
to slip when all the body weight is supported in one 
stirrup instead of divided between two. Every stable 
boy who confronts a Single-boot for the first time 
will argue this point, as he leads out his most dejected 
nag. An obviously handicapped person always has 
to fight for a decent mount. I have ridden some bizarre 
plugs, jovially called "horses" by their custodians. The 
uninitiated groom will invariably insist, "The way I 
cinch a saddle, it can't slip." Hah— many a saddle 
cinched so it cant slip has gone perverse all of a 
sudden and slid off, taking me right along with it! 

However, a nice sedate easy-gaited horse with a 
backbone that will hold a saddle reliably can give an 
amputee a good safe ride. The extra stirrup should 
be removed, for when it bounces against the horse's 
flanks it is likely to make him nervous. Also it is 
just as well to avoid double reins. Both a curb and 
a snaffle require two hands. It is better practice to 
use just a curb, and handle the reins in one hand, 
leaving the other free for that most ignominious breach- 
of-riding etiquette— pulling leather. Making quick 
turns at a canter is likely to upset balance. It is far 
less degrading to push on the saddle with a free hand 
to maintain equilibrium than it is to fly off into space. 
Space is notoriously solid at the bottom, as I know 
from coming down hard on it many times. 

An amputee who is bright in the head leaves all 

70 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

fancy work on horseback to bipeds. It is half-witted 
for even a normal person to show off on a horse, and it 
is stark madness for a one-legger. I know— I'm a 
reformed maniac myself. 

In returning to the campus stables from the bridle 
paths in the foothills, we went directly by the college 
inn and the dormitories. Since these two blocks were 
paved, we weren't, of course, permitted to flash by at 
a canter. Sensibly enough, we were required to walk 
our horses in this rather populated and busy area. 
This being a pretty poky regulation, allowing no 
opportunity to startle bystanders, some of us had a 
rather wicked little trick for enlivening things. We 
made clicking noises deep in our throats and at the 
same time kept the horses' heads reined high. This 
precarious practice excited our mounts into lifting 
their hooves prettily, prancing and dancing sideways. 
We thereby gave the impression to the awed pedes- 
trians on the safe sidewalks, of magnificent manage- 
ment of a herd of wild stallions recently roped on 
the open range. 

One day I rode through this parading ground 
alone and, as usual, I did my quiet bit of ventrilo- 
quism. My horse, normally gentle and long suffering, 
decided apparently that the time had come, not only 
to tell me off but to throw me off. He opened his 
mouth, showed his dentures, and whinnied a noisy 
impertinent remark that even I who can't speak 

71 



OUT ON A LIMB 

"horse" understood perfectly. "O.K., smarty-pants, 
you asked for it!" 

He lifted up his rear end three times, and I des- 
cribed a parabola in the air and landed on my fanny, 
in the middle of an intersection. Man's best friend 
then turned his head and with a brief horselaugh, 
hot-hoofed it for the stables. Wise guy— he knew that 
even if I could catch him, I couldn't remount. If only 
I had been blessed with a nice little concussion at 
that point and had collapsed into a comfortable coma, 
everything would have been dandy. But not me! 
Except for a certain indelicate numbness that implied 
I might have a lost weak end, I wasn't wounded a 
whit. 

Anyone else could have arisen and fled the scene 
of such ignominy— but although I arose, there I stood 
on one foot. To hop away, flapping my wings like an 
embittered bird, would only have heaped hot clinkers 
on my already flaming embarrassment. 

People screamed. Old ladies and gents leaped out 
of their rocking chairs on the porch of the inn, and 
students raced across the campus. I didn't even have 
the virtue of being funny. Nobody laughed except 
one dear, dear friend who went into a rollicking 
display of disgusting good cheer. I felt like Old 
Hogan's Goat tied to the railroad track, seeing all 
those chugging rescuers closing in on me. 

72 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

Not one of them shouted with outrage, "That 
dangerous wild bronco threw her!"— which, God for- 
give, he did technically. It was like a horrible ghostly 
visitation of my old roller-skating days. All the good 
people lamented in chorus, "That poor, poor girl 
fell off!" 

Just in the nick of time I was spirited away. A car 
came toward me, and with all the savoir-faire of a 
confirmed hobo, I flung out my thumb. The car 
braked to a stop and I hopped in. 

"Hiyah, Babe," the stranger said, and leered at me. 
He wasn't local talent. He looked like a graduate of 
Alcatraz, now that I ponder on his charms, but at 
that moment he was Galahad on a white charger. 
When I got to the stables, the horse was quietly 
munching hay. When he saw me, however, he paused 
long enough to laugh his fool head off. 

"That'll learn her!" he remarked ungrammatically 
to a mare in the next stall. He was right, too— it 
learned me good— but he got his come-uppance. He 
didn't get to finish his vitamins. The stable boy, to 
discipline both me and the horse, promptly hoisted 
me up on him again, and I walked sedately back by 
the inn. I didn't hand him my usual line of deep- 
throated chatter this time, however. In fact, my con- 
versational wit with horses from that day hence has 
been limited to "Nice horsy! Nice horsy!" 

73 



OUT ON A LIMB 

When I wasn't out courting the horses or compro- 
mising the faculty, I did the usual things that lead 
to an A.B. degree. My major academic interests were 
in sociology and in English. I figured I'd do the world 
good with one and do myself good with the other. 
I didn't distinguish myself scholastically. When the 
faculty members sit around on a cold winter's night 
nostalgically reminiscing about students who have 
made their years of teaching richly worth while, my 
name is not mentioned. I am more generous with 
them. When I sit around on cold winter nights remi- 
niscing about the teachers who have influenced my 
life, there are several, that I didn't even marry, who 
always come in for praise. In spite of the recorder's 
office's convincing evidence to the contrary, I got 
quite a bit out of college. 

During those four years I learned a good many odds 
and ends that were not in the curriculum but which 
helped me to get ahead in the world. For one thing, it 
was in college that I quit buying stockings. 

My roommate, Lucile Hutton, pointed out that 
she regarded me as something of a simple sucker 
for investing in hosiery when I could just as well 
beg castoffs from my friends. Whenever she got a 
run in one of a good pair, she presented me with 
the odd stocking. She very kindly spread the word 
around the dormitory and before long there were so 
many contributions, I never purchased any stockings 

74 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

myself. I doubt if I have bought more than half a 
dozen pairs of hose since. I am quite definitely spoiled. 
When emergencies have forced me to support my 
leg in the manner to which it has become accustomed, 
I have greatly resented the expenditure. During the 
war when even rayons were hoarded like jewels, I 
resembled a Black Marketeer. From Pearl Harbor to 
V-J Day, my leg remained a prewar aristocrat. I 
wore nylons. Suddenly stocking-conscious, my friends 
from all over the country sent me their last odd, 
surviving sheer. 

During college I also learned that it was sharp to 
send my boy friends off to the dances with other 
women— even when they perjured themselves by 
swearing their eternal faithfulness to me. Prom night 
in a girls' dormitory can be a bit grim for a handi- 
capped person. I used to flutter about hooking slinky 
dresses, powdering bare backs, and pinning on cor- 
sages and acting just horribly ecstatic about everyone 
dashing off without me, for a large evening. Along 
with a smattering of unlovelies, I was dependably 
free on the evenings of dances and so I usually oper- 
ated the dormitory switchboard and let all the late 
home-comers in the front door. This was a neat device 
for checking up on what hour my own beau deposited 
his partner. 

My insistence that my current follower date some- 
one else on these evenings did not surge from a noble 

75 



OUT ON A LIMB 

nature. I didn't subscribe to the theory that virtue 
is its own reward and that I could have myself a 
high old time making others happy. It was sound 
technique. I could dance a little on one crutch, but 
only a partner who had practiced with me in private 
could make any real showing in public. At a dance 
I was a misfit and I knew it, but I never allowed 
anyone to get the idea that he was saddled with a 
burden who limited his pleasures. Often overly zealous 
devotion prompted some unsuspecting young man to 
make the supreme gesture. When my insistence finally 
convinced him he should go with someone else, he 
would ask me for a suggestion as to whom he should 
date. 

Then I exercised my greatest generosity. I always 
carefully selected someone who might possibly have 
been a pretty baby, who was known to be good to 
her mother, and who would make someone, who had 
sense enough to recognize sterling virtues, a splendid 
little helpmate. Who could complain about that? 
There is often more to an ugly mug than meets the 
eye, I always say, and what's a lumpy figure anyway 
if it harbors a heart of gold? 



I went to college during that dangerous period in 
the late twenties when easy money, Prohibition, and 
a hideous collegiate philosophy were madly dancing 

76 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

around, hand in hand. "It's not the grades you make 
but the college life and the contacts that are im- 
portant." That little ditty, I am sure, made many a 
natural A student shift into C out of sheer apology, 
and it abetted me in my already deplorable habit 
of running for office. 

Our college town was fresh out of fleshpots, how- 
ever. It reeked of wholesomeness. Besides, I didn't 
have enough money to be artistically madcap. My 
family has always cleverly managed to be respectably 
poor, even in times of great national prosperity. The 
only relative we ever had who accumulated an im- 
pressive pile of cash was an industrious great-uncle. 
He was lavishly rewarded with riches for being a 
vestryman on Sundays, and weekdays paying starva- 
tion wages to his employees and working them ten 
hours, in a cozy place said to resemble the Black Hole 
of Calcutta. He became something of a baron. 

However, he got nervous about his hope for Heaven 
or else so annoyed with his kin, who looked lustfully 
eager every time he sneezed, that when finally he 
died, at the tantalizing age of ninety-two, he left his 
ill-gotten gains to the church. With proper sentiment, 
he did preserve for his posterity the family Bible, 
some bad paintings of grim ancestors, and a silver 
tea service. I got the tea service, which I must admit 
was preferable to the ancestors, but even it turned 
out to be quadruple plate, not sterling. So— I was 

77 



OUT ON A LIMB 

pretty well imbued with the knowledge that life was 
real, life was earnest and knew that the minute I 
graduated from college, I'd have to stand on my own 
two crutches and dig into my own pocket for small 
change. 

Although I was occasionally lured onto some rather 
distracting bypaths during my college years, I was 
fairly well oriented to the straight road to occupational 
preparation. I am grateful that no one with ideas about 
"suitable jobs" for the handicapped ever hedged me 
in with prejudices. I was fortunate that I was never 
tantalized with warnings that there were vocational 
fields in which my handicap made me ineligible. 
Nobody has to point out to a crippled person the 
things he can and can't do. I certainly didn't aspire 
for a spot in a dancing chorus, but I never felt any 
restrictions about choice of vocation either. I was 
allowed to follow my own bents. 

Although some handicapped people must inevitably 
compromise with their ambitions, I firmly believe that, 
in general, they can at least approximate their ob- 
jectives in the field of their natural choice. It may, of 
course, involve a shift in emphasis, and they should 
be prepared for occasional rebuffs. Although I suffered 
few of these, I was unprepared for them. 

An acquaintance of mine, a girl victimized by polio 
in her teens, has been committed to a wheel chair 
for life. When she began protesting the completely 

78 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

unproductive existence she was forced to endure, her 
family humored her in great style. They allowed her 
to become the unhappy pawn of a spinster cousin of 
her mother's who fancied herself an able amateur 
occupational therapist. This well-meaning relative 
kept the poor girl bored but busy making pot holders, 
stringing beads into hideous novelties, and weaving 
baskets. Only when my friend finally revolted against 
her helpful advisors did she achieve the independence 
she craved. 

"I simply wasn't meant to be a bead stringer," she 
told me. She loved books and had planned, before 
tragedy touched her, to major in library science at 
Simmons College. With the assistance of a very small 
loan for working capital, she started a lending library 
in her own home. In addition, on her own initiative, 
she learned shorthand and typing. She ran a success- 
ful dual business— the library, and a public-stenography 
and notary-public service. It was not precisely the 
culmination of her original plans, but it was a close 
enough substitute to give her personal satisfaction, 
as well as economic independence. 

I was unhindered by planted misgivings. With 
complete freedom of choice, I surveyed occupations 
for women— or rather, careers for women. (For what 
girl ever expects anything less than a career, com- 
plete with a fresh gardenia daily on a superbly tailored 

79 



OUT ON A LIMB 

suit, and a big blond Philippine mahogany desk in 
which to keep her lipstick?) 

I made my first trifling but unhesitating step into 
economic independence while I was still in college. 
For the munificent salary of thirty cents an hour, I did 
a few small chores around the campus. In addition 
to operating the dormitory switchboard and doing a 
little life-guarding of the girls' swimming pool, I also 
could be had as a baby sitter. Summers I guided the 
young, as a counselor in a girls' camp. For, absolutely 
free and with unrestrained rapture, I also worked 
every day on the college newspaper. I didn't actually 
contribute very heavily to my own support; I merely 
earned the money for a few frills. 

But this brief prologue to economic realism jolted 
me into recognition of the elementary fact that a 
pay envelope was a nifty proposition, but getting it 
could be almighty dull. I decided to go into newspaper 
work which, I thought and still believe, wasn't the 
quick formula for riches but was certainly a fairly 
entertaining way to eke out an existence. 

Those were the days when opportunity didn't knock, 
she walked right in and sat down cozylike in the 
kitchen and had a cup of coffee with you. All you had 
to do was tell her what you had in mind. But by 
1930, when I actually had the sheepskin in my fist, 
Opportunity, the fickle wench, was off on a long 

80 



SOME HORSES AND A HUSBAND 

vacation. When I finally went out to work my wiles 
on employers, the depression was on. 

Although I still regarded life as a bowl of cherries, 
I knew the horrible truth: cherries had pits in them 
that sometimes broke the teeth. All I wanted was 
enough money to pay the dentist's bill. Any job was 
a good job. It's true, I never desperately got down 
to contemplating taking a blind partner and sitting 
on the sidewalk with a couple of tin cups, the last 
stand of the handicapped. But I did spend some time 
listing all the occupations that didn't require ten toes. 
There were lots of them and they all looked mighty 
entrancing to me. However, with the luck of the one- 
legged, I landed on my foot— right smack on a news- 
paper. 



81 



CHAPTER VIII 

The Game 

But I didn't start job-hunting for six months after 
I got out of college for the incredible reason that 
I promptly pranced off to Europe with a money belt 
bulging with traveler's checks around my middle. 
How this came about is a complicated story. Even 
with the knowledge that I may endanger the morale 
of poor normal people, I must admit that my ex- 
ceedingly memorable junket was a direct reward for 
being one-legged. I went to Europe because I used 
crutches and because, about seven years prior to my 
date of sailing, when I was fourteen, our car broke 
down. 

In a tempestuous tantrum, I was made to cross 
town on a trolley with Mother. We had an appoint- 
ment to dine in formal splendor with a stiff relative 
who wore a little black band around her neck to 
restrain her excess chinnage. The prospect didn't send 
me into rapturous ecstasy. On such feeble threads 
hung one of the most important events of my life. 

The trolley was crowded. I sat in a glum pout on 

82 



THE GAME 

the open platform and Mother sat inside, glaring at 
me. Another trolley rider, who also proved to be a 
refugee from a temperamental automobile, pushed 
himself through the mob and hung onto a strap 
directly in front of Mother. When a seat became 
vacant next to her, he took it. Finally, with a good 
deal of diffidence, he opened fire. 

"Is the little girl on crutches your daughter?" he 
whispered quietly. 

He didn't quite fit the role, but Mother too promptly 
tagged him. He was, she assumed, an artificial-leg 
salesman. They frequently nailed her in public places 
when she was unwise enough to be seen with me. 
Their approach, however, usually had a certain slither 
to it. You almost expected them to whip out a card 
with an address on it and breathe in your ear, "Slip 
around some night, knock three times, and ask for 
oe. 

With understandable reluctance, considering how 
brattishly I was behaving at the moment, Mother 
confessed her maternity. She didn't warm up to the 
stranger. In spite of his charm, for he had a lot of it, 
Mother resisted him. When she discovered he wasn't 
a salesman, I think her next assumption was that he 
was a fugitive from an insane asylum for he said to 
her, "Your daughter charms me." Such a mad senti- 
ment, reasonably enough, made Mother wary. And 
then he continued, "I wonder if you would be willing 

83 



OUT ON A LIMB 

to allow my wife and me to call and get acquainted 
with her? We are very much interested in girls who 
use crutches." 

Mother was not one to pass out our phone number 
promiscuously. Although she insisted later that she 
trusted the gentleman on sight, she made no exception 
in his case. She gave him a polite quick freeze, in- 
tended to make Birds Eye spinach out of him. I marvel 
that the poor man ever thawed sufficiently to do his 
detective work. 

But he evidently had a sharp Sherlock mind and 
a couple of handy Watsons. In a mere matter of three 
days, anyway, an impeccable professional colleague 
of Father's telephoned and said that a very dear old 
friend of his was eager to meet our family. He brought 
him around to Father's office. It was Mama's "insane 
leg salesman." He turned out to be a prominent and 
highly esteemed Los Angeles professional man, the 
president of the Harvard Club, the president of the 
University Club, and a good Episcopalian— the latter 
being godly enough convoy to satisfy even Mother. 
He was also, I am personally convinced, the most 
thoroughly kind and gentle man who ever lived. 
Moreover, he and his equally lovable wife— strange 
as it seemed at the time— were minor collectors of 
one-legged girls. I say "minor" because I have since 
encountered several curators of much vaster collec- 
tions of such curiosa. This collecting may sound like a 

84 



THE GAME 

form of madness— but if it is, the quite harmless syn- 
drome invariably afflicts exceedingly nice people. 

Mr. and Mrs. Fultz were a childless couple who 
first became interested in one-legged girls when one 
such served them very efficiently as a private secre- 
tary. Also they were influenced by a charming little 
tale published in book form in 1912, called The Girl 
with the Rosewood Crutches. This was a touching 
first-person account, anonymously signed, of a young 
woman's triumphant victory over the handicap of a 
right leg amputation. She was properly modest about 
herself, of course, since she was a perfect lady. Never- 
theless, she didn't let the fact escape her readers 
for a moment that she was just about the most 
tantalizingly beautiful, and at the same time chaste, 
package that ever titillated a susceptible male. She 
walked like a queen, dressed like Mrs. Harrison 
Williams, sang like head bird at the Met, and had a 
brilliant career, as well as a devoted lover whom she 
coyly referred to as "The Boy." 

My new friends gave me the book to read, and I 
too was greatly impressed by the romantic girl's 
autobiography. I even decided that if I ever got a 
sweetheart, I would call him "The Boy." I yearned 
to meet the author, even though I knew that time 
was afleeting and she was probably now a faded, 
doddering old crone of at least thirty. 

Several years later, by one of those coincidences 

85 



OUT ON A LIMB 

that make life so entertaining for a person on crutches, 
I did meet "her." The book proved to be the bastard 
brain child of a big and bouncing and very jolly New 
York businessman and writer. He does use crutches, 
having a pair of unreliable knees, and he also pos- 
sesses one of the country's most impressive collections 
of unipeds. But he is definitely not a fascinating little 
feminine hopper. Although he admits openly to a new 
legitimate book every year or so, he never confesses 
his paternity to The Girl with the Rosewood Crutches, 
that poor love child of his careless youth. 

I don't know the chemistry of rapport. But what- 
ever the element is that prompts strangers to recognize 
kinship with each other, it was bubbling to the point 
of bursting its beaker when I met Mr. and Mrs. Fultz. 
I loved them immediately— and more remarkable, they 
loved me. They became almost an extra pair of parents 
to me. 

So to roam back to my original premise, because I 
used crutches and because Father's ancient Buick 
balked at precisely the right time, a couple of angels 
on lend-lease to the Earth gave me a trip to Europe 
for a graduation present. 

This was a trifling contribution to my happiness, 
however, compared to the priceless one— the subtle 
contribution of influencing my attitude of mind— that 
they handed me on the installment plan over the 
years. Mr. Fultz gave me a healthy transfusion of his 

86 



THE GAME 

own rich imagination. He taught me how to use my 
crutches as tools for having a perfectly hell-raising 
good time. 

He began, mildly enough, by attempting to put 
some artistry into my crutches. He presented me 
with my first pair of stylish sticks— beautiful rose- 
woods on which I strutted forth to claim my high 
school diploma. Prior to that I hadn't given anything 
but the most practical consideration to what sort of 
crutches I wore. I wanted them lightweight for ease 
in handling, and strong because I frequently broke 
them. I didn't care what they looked like. I even let 
my friends carve their initials all over them. 

I was very cautious about the rubber tips worn on 
the ends, however. There are a great variety of these 
available, and I learned that the bigger and bulkier 
they were and the redder the rubber that went into 
them, the better. I always had spares on hand so that 
I could replace them promptly when one wore out. 
A crutch end protruding through a worn-out rubber 
tip is as dangerous as a planted banana peel on the 
sidewalk, and works precisely the same havoc. Giving 
up the big red suction-bottom safety crutch tips, and 
using substitute black synthetic ones, constituted the 
greatest commodity sacrifice I was called upon to 
make for the war effort. I'd rather have a car with 
no tires than crutches with inferior tips. 

Mr. Fultz didn't settle back satisfied after giving 

87 



OUT ON A LIMB 

me the rosewood crutches. He turned out to have a 
hidden talent. He became a sort of Adrian to the 
Handicapped. It occurred to him, like an inspiration, 
that crutches should be regarded as smart accessories 
to a costume. He suggested that with my chocolate- 
colored rosewoods, I should wear a brown suede 
pump, purse, and gloves, and a brown felt hat. That 
was all the guidance I needed. In a few years, I had 
a crutch wardrobe: black, blue, brown, green, etc. 
Crutches don't come in gay colors but any good 
enamel works the enhancing transformation. I am 
now just as likely to complain, "I haven't got a crutch 
I'd wear to a dog fight," as I am to say, "I haven't 
got a decent dress to my name." 

Others beside Mr. Fultz made contributions to the 
chic individuality of my crutch wardrobe, but it was 
he who first made me style-conscious. I have never 
possessed a really close friend who didn't take a 
tremendous critical interest in my crutches. 

The "Father" of The Girl with the Rosewood 
Crutches gave me a very spritely pair of red ones. 
My brother-in-law, an engineer, really put some 
science into his improvement of my walking gear. He 
designed, cast saddle and handle connectives, and 
made me some beautiful slender crutches out of 
hollow Duralumin tubing. This material is magnifi- 
cently suitable since it is light and very strong, and 
takes a neat baked enamel finish. These custom-built 

88 



THE GAME 

Duralumins are now my prime favorites for dress 
crutches. They have the virtue of almost perpetual 
life; they don't get creaky with age; and they can be 
sent off for a new bake job to eradicate the ravages 
of rough use or to comply with current color schemes. 
Once, I even had a gilt-colored pair to match my gold 
evening slippers. 

Another friend designed crutch cases for me. He 
had them custom-made to match my luggage. I can 
now conveniently carry two extra pairs along when 
I travel. These crutch carriers resemble gun cases and 
frequently on trains people ask me if I'm going hunt- 
ing. I always say, "Yes, I'm a big-game hunter and 
have a den at home that is absolutely haunted with 
glassy-eyed heads." 

Mr. Fultz's ideas, however, were not only aesthetic 
and practical, but lighthearted. Ingeniously, he carved 
out a little secret cache cabinet under the saddle of 
one of my wooden crutches. He said, "This will come 
in handy if you decide to be a diamond smuggler 
when you grow up, or an international spy who has 
to conceal the plan for the bomb sight." In the mean- 
time, while I was still treading the paths of virtue, he 
suggested that I could always carry a dollar bill in 
it for mad money. 

He, probably more than anyone I ever knew, em- / 
bedded the conviction in my mind that there was 
nothing I couldn't do on crutches. He even whipped 

89 



OUT ON A LIMB 

out Webster and gave me a consoling definition for 
handicap; "Handicap: A race or contest in which, in 
order to equalize chances of winning, an artificial 
disadvantage is imposed on a superior contestant." 
To prove Webster s point, he promptly set about dis- 
proving any limitation I admitted. 

He taught me to drive a car, dance on one crutch, 
and how to master surf swimming. Many were the 
dollars he invested in encouraging my passion for 
horseback riding. More deviously, he infused into 
my consciousness recognition of my unique personal 
opportunity for adventure in living. He almost had me 
sorry for two-leggers. 

Probably his greatest single inspiration in the gay 
spirit was the question and answer game which he 
dubbed "Ham and Legs." This is an entertaining indoor 
and outdoor sport from which ordinary people are 
barred because of the handicap of their normalcy. 
Occasionally friends of mine have opportunity to in- 
dulge in the game but only in the role of middleman. 

Everyone who has walked on crutches knows thor- 
oughly the great streak of curiosity that seems to be 
part and parcel of the American character. From the 
time I hobbled forth on my first pair of crutches at 
eight, right up to yesterday, perfect strangers not 
only have stared at me as if I were a bearded lady 
from the circus, but they have stopped me on the 

90 



THE GAME 

street, nailed me down in railroad cars, accosted me 
in stations and stores, and questioned me. 

I have become very adept at recognizing the pre- 
cise type of individual who will pose this $64 question, 
"My poor young lady, whatever happened to you?" 
In my mature dignity— such as it is— I have also de- 
veloped a frigid unapproachable mien with which, 
when I choose to, I can freeze the question unasked 
in almost any throat. 

But for many years, while I was younger and more 
defenseless, I could scarcely walk a city block without 
having someone pounce upon me and demand all the 
bloody details of my accident from the moment of 
collision right up to the fee extracted by my surgeon. 
This used to cause me acute embarrassment. I didn't 
have the necessary defiance to say, "It's none of your 
damn business." Besides, Mother didn't allow me to 
swear. I always paused and politely related my unim- 
pressive little bicycle-meets-automobile fray. 

It was Mr. Fultz who conceived of putting drama 
into this situation. Drama was, in fact, the essence of 
the game. I always had a mildly wistful regret that 
I couldn't take up acting, at least as a hobby. How- 
ever there are few roles that are suitable for a one- 
legged Thespian— Sarah Bernhardt's advanced years 
on the stage as a uniped notwithstanding. 

"This is your chance to do a little acting," Mr. 
Fultz told me. "Moreover you won't have to run 

91 



OUT ON A LIMB 

through all the minor maid's roles before getting a 
chance to star. You can play the lead every time. 
You see, these people aren't really interested in you 
personally. They are merely starved for excitement. 
They pry, in the hope of uncovering a lurid hair- 
raising tale. I'm sure most of them are pretty well 
blasted by the commonplace truth. So, why not hand 
them precisely what they want? They're asking for it." 

The game, Ham and Legs, provided all the answers. 
For a couple of evenings Mr. and Mrs. Fultz and I 
went into hysterics planning my attacks. 

In the beginning I wasn't very adroit. I felt a soap-in- 
the-mouth guilt the first time I explained to a nosy old 
bat that I was the unfortunate offspring of a circus 
clown and a lion tamer and that I lost my leg by falling 
off a high tightrope where as a child I habitually played 
with my dolls. 

Like most sinners, of course, I eventually became 
quite cavalier about my personal wickedness. The 
Ham came juicier and juicier with the Legs. Even the 
dizziest legends didn't give me the mildest prick of 
conscience. I suffered not a qualm but only the greatest 
pleasure from my premeditated prevarication. 

There is apparently only one trait in human nature 
which is stronger than curiosity. It is credulity. The 
things people will believe are unbelievable! 

One of my choicest little epics was the heroic 
account of a swooping venture on skis. Down a pre* 

92 



THE GAME 

cipitous mountainside I slalomed, a sick baby in my 
arms, only to collapse at the doctor's door, the infant 
saved, but my poor right leg frozen stiff as a poker. 
It was so completely refrigerated, in fact, that the 
doctor, without administering so much as a whiff of 
anesthetic, chipped it off with an ice pick. 

Even unrehearsed repartee came easily. The flap- 
ping-eared recipient of the latter fancy cheerfully 
swallowed the hook, and was all agape for the line 
and sinker. How did it happen that my left leg was 
so providentially spared, she wanted to know, not 
satisfied with what I already regarded as a very gener- 
ous slice of my imagination. 

"Well, I've been educated about weather," I said. 
"Me, I'm a Norska from Oslo. I was smart enough to 
anticipate chilblains. I decided I'd preserve at least 
one leg. Owed it to myself, I figured. I skied on only 
one foot, after pinning up my spare in a blanket." 

"Well, I do declare!" The hypnotized listener didn't 
bat an eyelash. 

In this little intellectual sport one has to care- 
fully evaluate the proponents and the circumstances 
of play. For instance, the above choice item is best 
peddled in a sunny clime, where a general ignorance 
about skiing prevails. I recommend it as highly suit- 
able to Los Angeles, California, but not quite so 
effective in Hanover, New Hampshire. It's fairly good 
training in psychology to estimate at a glance just 

93 



OUT ON A LIMB 

how tall a tale each individual sucker will reach for. 
In general, the vocally inquisitive aren't mental giants. 
Sometimes, however, I have to content myself with 
something simple like leprosy or an encounter with 
an ill-mannered shark off the coast of Florida. 

There is another important complication to the 
game with special laws of honor. Mr. Fultz was a 
very kindly man and he wrote these specifications 
into the rule book at the very beginning. An ethical 
player must distinguish between the idly inquisitive 
who deserve to have their ears pinned back and the 
genuinely interested who frequently have a heartfelt 
reason for inquiry. Often I am approached by some- 
one who has a similarly handicapped member in his 
family. Strangely enough, these querists are a breed 
apart. They look different and their approach is much 
gentler. There is a certain softness of eye in contrast 
to the glittering rapaciousness of the sensation-seeker's 
leer. 

"I hope you'll forgive me for speaking to you, but 
I have a son—" That is almost a standard opener for 
these questioners. 

Then the game is no longer Ham. "Let's sit down 
some place where we can talk," I suggest. In ex- 
change for my own genuine but rather mundane 
autobiography, I hear someone else's story. Frequently 
these are heroic histories that make me apologetic for 
the happy simplicity of my own life. 

94 



THE GAME 

Of course, the game is dangerous if played too close 
to home. My legends occasionally fly back to nest in 
my hair. 

According to a rumor that I have reason to credit, 
the world's a small place. Even in New York City, 
where the chances are you'll never meet your next- 
door neighbor socially even if you flit from party to 
party for a lifetime, I had one of my stories return 
and lay a double-yolked egg on me. 

In a beauty salon where I sat under a noisy drier, a 
similarly trapped customer next to me, apparently ob- 
sessed with her curiosity, screamed, "What happened 
to you?" Anyone who is nosy in a high cackle de- 
serves the chopping block. 

"Parachutist!" I yelled back. "Stunt flyer!" I threw 
up my hands as if the very thought of the horrible 
details pained me beyond further speech. 

She passed a frail white manicured hand across 
her cheek, elevated her bosom in a sympathetic sigh, 
and shook her hot head. That was the extent of our 
girlish confidences. 

Three days later I went to a cocktail party in the 
apartment of a close friend. I believe there are some 
eight million people in New York City. Only about 
fifteen of them were at the party, but— all fancy with 
her new permanent— there was Milady of the Drier. I 
probably wouldn't even have recognized her except that 

95 



OUT ON A LIMB 

when I came tripping in on my crutches, I heard her 
gasp to our hostess, "Elaine, darling, you never told 
me you knew that perfectly fascinating parachutist." 

Elaine who immediately recognized one of my way- 
ward flights of fancy gave me a cynical diabolical 
smile. "Oh, didn't I tell you— dear?" answered Elaine. 
"Sad, wasn't it? And losing her teeth, too." She paused 
to click her tongue sympathetically. "Did she tell you 
about that? I think the dentist did a rather neat job 
on her double dentures though. But you should see 
her when they're out. Is she a sight!" There was 
nothing I could do at that point but show my allegedly 
false biters in a horrible smile. 

The only questioners who really ruffle me are 
children. "Mama, where's that lady's leg?" Junior in- 
variably points his finger at me. Very promptly, and 
as firmly as if he'd just taken the name of the Lord in 
vain, he is silenced by Mama. 

Sometimes the child asks me directly, however. 
"Where's your leg, lady?" 

Then I'm almost as tongue-tied and twice as em- 
barrassed as a young thing out on her first date. 
Usually I say, "It's all gone," and run like hell. If the 
dear little inquiring mind belongs to a child old 
enough to digest a good moral tale, I often pause 
and deliver. With that hearty cheerfulness that is so 
unbecoming to an adult talking to the very young, 
I croak, "When I was a little girl like you, I didn't 

96 



THE GAME 

mind my mother when she told me I mustn't play 
in the street and I got very badly hurt." 

"A car hit you and your leg broke off, huh?" Chil- 
dren brought up on the bloody adventures of current 
so-called "comics" can take a mere loss of leg with 
unflinching calm. But I can't hand it out with similar 
detachment. 

"That's right," I agree and hotfoot it for cover. 

I like my adversaries to be of voting age. Then 
they get no quarter. In this game there are some 
very special gambits. My favorite is the death-dealing 
Fool's Mate. This is only applicable when some hope- 
lessly snoopy old biddy is stupid enough to leave 
herself wide open." 

"My poor girl, I see you've lost your leg." 

That's the opportunity for the touche, "How care- 
less of me!" 



97 



CHAPTER IX 



re 



Watch Tour Step" 



I don t want to imply that I harbor the cheerful 
notion that being one-legged is a privilege. It's a 
damn nuisance, of course. Whether on an artificial 



leg or on crutches, it always involves the constant 
annoying necessity of draying something along in 
the way of special walking gear. It is much handier 
to be equipped with standard attachments. Still, there 
is nothing that so convincingly argues for the Law of 
Compensation as traveling on crutches. Before I hied 
myself off to Europe, I wasn't a seasoned vagabond, 
by any means, but I had timidly taken a few Pullman 
rides to various parts of the country. I learned from 
experience that nobody got more for his money in 
service, consideration, and entertainment than I did. 
And when I set forth alone for my grand tour of 
the United States and the Continent, I had no haunting 
fear that I wouldn't get along fine. 

Both passengers and railroad personnel always hover 
over me like guardian angels. It is true that occasion- 
ally over-solicitude upsets me— sometimes literally. 

98 



"WATCH YOUR STEF' 

Pullman porters, a noble breed of men, in their kind 
eagerness to get me off the cars and off their hands 
without casualty, are likely to uncrutch me. When 
they have the cooperation of a conductor in unloading 
me—a doubly effective team— they can really work 
havoc. One on each side, grabbing my arm or my 
crutch, they frequently unbalance me. I am always 
safer managing steps or stairs of any kind without 
assistance. It is disheartening to blast their generosity 
by ordering them to unhand me. People simply glow 
with pleasure when they help the handicapped, and 
I have a theory that it is only decent to let them have 
their silly fun. So if I think the chances of survival, 
without broken bones, are about fifty-fifty, I take the 
gamble and endure the assistance, merely out of 
politeness. 

Once, however, with two of the goodwill boys 
helpfully heckling me, I quite involuntarily took off 
from the top step of a Pullman car. By good fortune, 
plus what I modestly fancy was miraculous agility, 
I flew through the air with the greatest of ease and 
made a perfect three-point landing— one foot, two 
crutches. Even though breathless over my own ac- 
complishment, I was able to pull myself together 
sufficiently to pass out quite an impressive bon mot. 
I turned to my horrified helpers and said nonchalantly, 
"Don't worry— I always get off that way." 

Another thorn in my flesh, who sports a heart of 

99 



OUT ON A LIMB 

gold, is the over-zealous redcap who spots me in- 
variably as I am being knocked off the train by a 
porter. He dashes off like a breeze to get me a wheel 
chair. He then offers to convey me right through the 
station out to the cab stand. Of course, I don't want 
or need a wheel chair, and even urged on by my 
obliging nature, I can't bring myself to crawl into one. 

On only one occasion did I ever succumb to a 
redcap with the standard equipage. This occurred 
during the first stage of my trip to Europe on my 
stopover between trains in Chicago. This hero to 
whom I fell prey had a most appealing, smiling, shiny 
black face under his white hair. In spite of the re- 
tarded gait of his advanced years, he pulled up 
promptly with his proffered transportation. He was 
so obviously pleased with himself and so genuinely 
solicitous of me that I couldn't flip off his beaming 
light by refusing to ride. With resignation and a great 
show of clumsiness, I got myself into the wheel chair, 
with both the train porter and the redcap behaving 
like derricks. I paid an extra dollar in tips for my 
embarrassment and the drayage I didn't want. 

"You just sit back now and relax," the good Samari- 
tan cooed at me on the way to the passengers' gate. 
"You re gonna get along just mighty fine. Is somebody 
gonna meet you, Honey?" 

Somebody was gonna meet her, Honey admitted 
with some disquietude. My aunt was right there behind 

100 



"WATCH YOUR STEP" 

the gate. She saw me as I approached in my stylish 
chaise and grabbed at the iron grill work as if she 
were about to rip it out by its tap roots. She visibly 
paled. 

"Oh, my dear! My dear! You've had an accident!" 
she gasped. "What happened to you?" 

"There, there, Auntie," I soothed as I rolled my 
eyes roguishly in an effort to let her in on my harmless 
ruse. "It's really all right. I've just lost my leg, that's 
all. But I'm going to get along just fine." 

Auntie, dear soul, was not tuned in to catch the 
most blatant innuendoes that morning. "Heavenly 
Father!" she screeched for all Chicago to hear. "Lost 
the other one?" 

I kicked up my fine, genuine old ancestral foot, 
to relieve her mind, but she still looked ready to 
take off. 

"Now, don't you go grieving this young lady," the 
nice old redcap reproved. "She's only got one foot 
and I expect it would'a been better if she'd told you 
when it happened so it wouldn't'a been such a shock 
to you, but you'll only upset her if you carry on like 
this. God moves in mysterious ways." The old boy 
was quite a philosophical gentleman. Of course, poor, 
mystified Auntie had been notified promptly enough 
of my loss thirteen years before. 

"As soon as we get in your car, I'll tell you all 
about it, Auntie." I twisted my mouth into a horrible 

101 



OUT ON A LIMB 

grimace, winked my eye broadly, and shook my head. 
Apparently the combination of contortions finally 
made some sense— or rather nonsense, from Auntie's 
point of view. 

"Oh, you are simply terrible," she announced in her 
relief. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You 
always were a difficult child/' 

If Auntie had taken a good look at the redcap at 
that precise moment, she would, I am sure, have fled 
in fright. He had her death warrant plainly written 
on his face. Her lack of feeling even shocked the 
philosophy right out of the dear old man. 

I can imagine him sitting among his fellow burden- 
bearers. "You sure run into all kinds in this game," 
he probably begins. "But the queerest character I 
ever saw— barring none—" And then, I bet Auntie 
gets a good going over. 

My visit with Auntie was off to a bad start. During 
my four-hour layover in Chicago, she wouldn't even 
give me a peaceful country-girl's gawk at Marshall 
Field's finery. She spent the entire time lecturing me 
on how a lady conducted herself on a tour. 

With horrible detail she covered the subjects of the 
insidious evils of strong drink, cardsharpers on ship- 
board, and the general depravity of the human race. 
Her final admonition as she put me on the Capitol 
Limited for Washington, where I was going to get a 
glimpse of the Government, was, "Now watch your 

102 



"WATCH YOUR STEP" 

step. Don't ever speak to a stranger— especially a man." 
I believe she expected me to spend the next six months 
in dead silence. 

I had a charming male friend staked out in the 
club car, however, before we got to the Englewood 
station. Only by crass discourtesy or by investing in 
a compartment and never leaving it, even for a breath 
of air or breakfast, can a crippled traveler keep him- 
self aloof. My friend was a gentleman who came under 
the category of honorable opponent in the Ham and 
Legs game. He was a United States attorney and he 
had a friend, a Senator, whose little boy had just 
suffered an accident which necessitated the amputa- 
tion of his leg. I always figure that only the most re- 
spectable people have handicapped friends or family. 
Besides, few individuals ever plan to do wrong to a 
poor little Nell who so obviously has already had 
plenty of wrong done her. Crutches are a great pro- 
tection. 

When he invited me to dinner in the diner, I hesi- 
tated only long enough to tell him about my quaint 
aunt. "She told me just before we pulled out of the 
station not to take up with strange men. But my aunt 
is very naive. She hasn't been around much." 

"And you, my dear young lady, are very sophisti- 
cated, I can see that," he answered. "You look as if 
you'd just been 'round and round." 

This put me in a genial mood. I even smoked a 

103 



OUT ON A LIMB 

cigarette to prove to him that his confidence in my 
worldliness was not misplaced. We had a fine dinner. 
The next morning when I got off the train in Washing- 
ton, however, my friend apparently had had a change 
of heart about my sophistication. 

"I don't think you should run around this strange 
city alone," he said. He carefully arranged my sight- 
seeing, lunched me at the Cosmos Club, and personally 
stowed me on the Philadelphia train in the afternoon. 
Moreover, he gave me a stack of his personal cards 
on which he had carefully written out for me an in- 
troduction to somebody woefully respectable in almost 
every capital of Europe and one for the captain of 
the Leviathan, the ship on which I was to sail. "You 
may not need these," he said, "but it will make me 
easier in my mind for you to have them. Now watch 
your step and don't take up with strangers." 

He blasted my faith. He might just as well have 
been a blood-brother to Auntie. 

On the train to Philadelphia, I picked up with 
another interesting, kind stranger. He was from an 
entirely different social level from my Washington 
protector. He was a former taxi driver from Brooklyn. 
He had been forced to give up his career when he 
suffered an accident in which he lost his left arm. 
He wore a hook. He was very cheerful about his fate, 
however, since he had become a traveling salesman 
which he regarded as a good leap up the ladder. He 

104 



"WATCH YOUR STEF' 

told me to call him "Elmer." We had a dandy time 
confiding the stories of our lives to each other. He 
had a wife whom he referred to as "Maze"— short for 
Maizie, I suppose— and seven children all devoutly 
named for saints. He told me exactly how to have a 
big time in "Philly." 

When we arrived he helped me locate my uncle 
in the Philadelphia station. Whenever possible, my 
family had carefully posted a relative where I was 
scheduled to light. Proudly I introduced Elmer to my 
uncle who displayed a certain cold restraint. When 
the father of the seven saints offered to take us to a 
nice little speak-easy near by, Uncle became actively 
antagonistic and spirited me away. I waved back, 
however, and called "Good-by, Elmer." 

My understanding friend lifted his hook in a jovial 
gesture, yelled "Olive oil, Louise," and implied by a 
genial wink that he knew what I was in for— and no 
hard feelings. Uncle shuddered like a victim of the 
shakes. 

Then began two days of lectures. Uncle was very 
broad minded and sensibly tolerant. He admitted 
readily enough that I couldn't seal my lips with ad- 
hesive for six months. He assured me, in fact, that 
it was perfectly all right to speak to strangers on trains 
and boats. But, he firmly pointed out, I must watch 
for symbols of respectability in men. I might frater- 
nize, to the cozy extent of discussing the weather, 

105 



OUT ON A LIMB 

with the following, listed in preferred order: gentle- 
men of the clergy whom I could identify by their 
collars, Kiwanians whose identity he made plain by 
displaying his own lapel button, and Masons. Gener- 
ally speaking, he distrusted women, especially those 
traveling alone. A bad lot! He confessed, however, 
that it might be safe to converse with nuns. 

"Oh, Boy, Unc!" I chirped happily. "Am I going 
to have myself a time!" 

He let me have a gander at the Liberty Bell and 
bought me some excellent seafood fodder in a place 
called Bookbinder's, which has nothing to do with 
the publishing business but means restaurant in "Phila- 
delphian." The rest of the time, he showed me around 
socially among some worthy citizens of Chestnut Hill 
who clucked at me over their lovely china teacups 
and assured me I was a fine, brave girl to flit about 
all by myself on my crutches on treacherous trains 
and ships and such like. They, too, knew the chorus 
to the old refrain, "But watch your step!" Uncle and 
his friends, I suspect, had lived too long in close 
proximity to the Liberty Bell. At least, it struck me 
that they bore one delicate stamp of similarity— just 
the tiniest touch of crack. 

I had a good, wholesome time in Philadelphia— 
which led me to the conclusion that I'd contrive 
cleverly to avoid the New York family contingent. 
Relatives were so overstimulating. I was afraid I'd 

106 



"WATCH YOUR STEF' 

give up the whole trip and hunt up a good lively 
Sunday School picnic as a substitute if I were exposed 
to any more of my righteous kin. I was supposed to 
wire a cousin in Rye of my train schedule from Phila- 
delphia. He had promised Mother to come down to 
Manhattan to meet me and then watch over me like 
a fond father until I sailed four days later. I hadn't 
seen this hazy sprig on the family tree in some fifteen 
years and, understandably, my memory of him was 
blurred. 

So I only pretended to wire him. Uncle put me on 
the train, with one last warning that rang a strangely 
nostalgic note: "Watch your step now." He was cheer- 
fully relieved to be disposed of me, I suspect. Trium- 
phantly I took over New York all by myself. 

I discovered later on, however, that the one relative 
I avoided so assiduously was a very smooth and 
handsome piece of goods who must have gotten into 
the family under false pretenses or by some miscar- 
riage of cargo on the part of a careless stork. He 
tracked me down before I sailed, sent me a brace of 
orchids, and the only admonition he administered was 
in the form of a neat little list of French and German 
wines which he commissioned me, with a fifty-dollar 
bill, to taste in his honor. 

"Won't I get drunk?" I asked with breathless awe. 

"Not on fifty dollars spread around," he assured 
me. "And what if you do? If you stagger, everyone 

107 



OUT ON A LIMB 



will just say, 'Look at that poor cripple, what a hard 
time she has walking on those crutches/ My God!" 
he chortled, warming to the thought. "What a handy 
alibi they'd make." 

He was such a nice man. 



108 



CHAPTER X 

All at Sea 

When I boarded the Leviathan, there wasn't a 
soul to see me off. I got to pondering on this 
woeful situation while I watched the abandon with 
which almost everyone else was being kissed. I turned 
my morbid imagination to California, where I pictured 
every woman under fifty who was still sound of limb, 
panting with eagerness to snatch my man while my 
back was turned. After all, he hadn't gotten around to 
making me an honorable proposal. One dire thought 
marched along behind another dire thought like a 
funeral procession. I brooded over the discouraging 
fact that I was on only a temporary reprieve from 
unemployment. I got frantic trying to remember how 
much I was supposed to tip the deck steward. I was 
certain I was going to be seasick— in fact, my stomach 
was already turning cart wheels. I speculated on the 
chances of a repetition of the Titanic disaster. I tried 
to recollect the words of "Nearer My God to Thee" 
and could only plug the parody "Nero My Dog Has 
Fleas." This, I knew, would never be appropriate 

109 



OUT ON A LIMB 

during that moment which I now regarded as inevi- 
table—when I went down with the ship after giving 
my place in the lifeboat to a pregnant mother. I even 
entertained a couple of terrified reflections on Auntie's 
predictions about Mickey Finns and cardsharpers. I 
yearned for a clergyman, a Kiwanian, or a Mason to 
drop by and mention the weather. I was in a state 
completely out of the Union. 

To escape the tantalizing view of people mauling 
each other, I went into the deserted lounge and 
sat down and cried and cried in the most dejected 
misery. An impartial observer might very well have 
assumed that I had just been chained to first oar on 
a slave galley. 

"You want something to cry in, young lady? No 
beer— how about a coke?" It was a steward. "Your 
family making you go abroad because you been raising 
hell? You in trouble, I betcha, huh?" 

It should have cheered me that someone thought I 
looked dangerous enough to have been raising hell, 
but it didn't. The sentiment only added to my misery. 
"No," I sobbed on. "Darn it, I'm not the type that 
gets into trouble." 

"Oh, you're not that bad," he consoled. "I betcha 
you'll be in real swell trouble before we dock at 
Southampton. Drink up." He shoved a Coca-Cola 
at me. 

I fumbled for my purse. 

110 



ALL AT SEA 

"This is unofficial," he shook his head. "On the 
house. Now pull yourself together and go out on deck. 
We're about to get under way and you don't want to 
miss that." 

I sniffled, blew my nose and repaired the awful 
red thing with powder. I got up and tucked my 
crutches under my arms, still feeling very sympathetic 
with myself. 

"Look sharp for the coaming when you go out- 
watch your step." If he'd been a practicing psychiatrist 
who'd had me laid out on a couch for six months 
boring into my inhibitions, he couldn't have hit more 
inspired therapeutics. 

I quit handing myself condolences. It threw me 
right into a laughing fit. 

He looked uneasy. "Was that good or something?" 

"Oh, very good," I said, "even though I have heard 
it before. It's just an old family joke that gets funnier 
and funnier. I'm going to be fine now. Thanks." 

"I'll keep an eye on you this trip." 

"Swell— you watch my step for me." 

He did, too. I never sat down in the lounge for a 
drink or an innocent game of bridge that he didn't 
slink up, squint his brows suspiciously, and scrutinize 
carefully whatever man I'd managed to snag. It was 
a little disconcerting to me, and it definitely made my 
victims uneasy. One sterling Cornell boy, in fact, pro- 
tested. "That steward is certainly a queer duck— and 

111 



OUT ON A LIMB 



damned rude if you ask me. The way he goes over 
me, you'd think I'd just held up the purser. If he 
dared lay his hands on me, I think he'd frisk me." 



As I walked out on deck, I thought I'd suddenly 
gone to Heaven and was tuned in on a choir of angels. 
The orchestra was playing "Our Sturdy Golden Bear." 
Californians in the crowd, even boys from Stanford 
who don't go for that tune, were all lit up proudly 
as if each one of them had personally planted every 
orange tree in the Golden State. The orchestra was 
a bunch of boys from the University of California 
who were playing their way to Europe. I, too, showed 
my good California ivories in a broad smile. As the 
ship weighed anchor, all the West Coasters were 
shaking hands and banging each other on the back. 
From a lonely wake, I suddenly leaped into Wednes- 
day of old home week. 

Not at all surprising to a person on crutches, some 
of these native sons and daughters even recognized 
me. "Aren't you from Los Angeles? I am sure I re- 
member seeing you shopping in Bullocks." Of course, 
they didn't actually remember me— they remembered 
my identifying crutches. Crutches, a sure tag, dis- 
courage a one-legger from a life of crime, but they 
are likely to be profitable in any situation short of 
bank robbery. And even then I'm pretty sure they'd 

112 



ALL AT SEA 

soften up a jury almost as much as a hunk of tasty 
cheesecake. Certainly they gave me a good start 
socially on shipboard. 

A bouncing, bright-faced man tapped me on the 
arm and said, "How'd you like that chocolate soda 
you had Friday in Schrafft's?" I looked at him in 
astonishment. 

"I was sitting right there beside you at the counter," 
he said. "I had vanilla." 

He was the social director of the Leviathan and he 
regarded our former encounter as an occult sign. He 
made me his protegee. Every night he lifted the rope 
and let me and several selected friends in on the 
sacred revelry in first cabin. This was a dubious privi- 
lege since the passengers in Third while less heavily 
laden with lucre were much lighter on their feet. It 
was also comforting to hear "Our Sturdy Golden Bear" 
every night, even though Ben Bernie's music in First 
was perhaps eight beats to the bar more professional. 



It is a curious eccentricity, but people have a 
tendency to regard girls on crutches as a special 
breed who behave— or should behave, anyway— en- 
tirely differently from other humans. During one 
crossing I had a charming old lady as my cabin mate. 
She was very much concerned about my welfare. In 
fact, I think it was her main interest in life, since she 

113 



OUT ON A LIMB 

didn't approve of much of anything that went on 
aboard ship. 

I was much more agile than she, but I practically 
had to knock her senseless to get her to take the lower 
berth. She was solicitous of my metabolism and always 
inquired daily about my diet and elimination. "You 
can't be too careful on crutches," she told me solemnly. 
"You must keep up your strength." What she Wanted 
me to keep it up for, I certainly can't imagine. 

She had a disconcerting habit of sitting bolt up- 
right in bed when I came in at night— checking the 
time by her watch. Then, apparently completely 
puzzled, she demanded, "Now, will you tell me please 
what a young lady on crutches does on shipboard 
until one o'clock in the morning?" 

One time I was bold enough to make a little arch 
inquiry on my own. "What do you think young ladies 
without crutches do?" I asked her. 

"Oh, mercy goodness!" she gasped. "You don't do 
that, do you?" 



When I arrived in London from the boat train, I 
became the ward of a professional guide who took 
me and a varied bunch of recalcitrants in tow for a 
tour of the Shakespeare country. From then on, most 
of my traveling in Great Britain and on the Continent 
was done under the wing of some such bird. These 

114 



ALL AT SEA 

couriers usually could chirp in several languages and 
they had apparently been good boys in their youth 
and read a chapter from Baedeker every night. There 
was little of historical, artistic or ecclesiastical value 
that I was allowed to escape. I was luckier than some, 
of course. I only had one aching foot instead of two. 

My first realization that I was marked for special 
enchantment far beyond that afforded by the British 
Museum and the Louvre came on the way to Warwick. 
We all spewed out of our sight-seeing bus in a small 
village and everyone scattered for an hour of freedom. 
I went into a little shop that specialized in charming, 
overpriced bric-a-brac. A very pleasant-looking man, 
obviously the proprietor, gave my every move in his 
establishment rapt, exclusive attention, to the great 
neglect of all his other customers. 

I even got the rather disquieting notion that he 
suspected me of being a shoplifter. Finally, in my 
embarrassment, with a false show of haughtiness, I 
started to leave. When I reached the door, he called 
to me. 

"Young lady— please— just a moment." He was ob- 
viously perturbed about something. 

"There is an item, rather choice," he spoke in a 
low voice, "that I keep in the back room. I would 
like to show it to you." 

Fascinated by his strange behavior and the sudden 
conviction that it wasn't a shoplifter he fancied me 

115 



OUT ON A LIMB 

but a countess, incognito, out bargaining for jewels, 
I followed him. If his appearance hadn't been so 
consolingly respectable, I am sure I would have 
worried when he brushed his other customers out 
the door. 

"I'm closing shop for half an hour," he announced 
curtly. "Please come back later." They were all so 
obviously annoyed, however, that I am certain none 
of them returned. 

"Forgive my most discourteous behavior," he 
pleaded when we were alone. "You see, I have a 
little girl, just nine, who has a handicap similar to 
yours. She is only five weeks out of hospital. Would 
you—could you—" 

"Oh, of course," I interrupted him. "I would be 
delighted to meet her. I was eight when I was hurt. 
Maybe I can tell her something useful." 

He led me through a back door of the shop and 
into a little walled garden where a small pale child 
with a doll sat listlessly in a wheel chair. A young 
woman sat beside her with a book of fairy tales in 
her lap. 

"Elizabeth," the shop proprietor said, "here is an 
American lady who has come to see Mary." 

They gave me tea while I talked to the little girl. 
I walked up and down the garden on my crutches 
and even went in for a bit of fancy exhibitionism- 
holding up my one foot and using the crutches like 

116 



ALL AT SEA 

stilts, a trick that always appeals to children. I passed 
on some of the things that I learned when I was just 
about the age of the little English girl. I quoted my 
old friend, Mrs. Ferris— even to recommending the 
multiplication tables. I told the little girl that life 
was going to be lots of fun for her. I am afraid it 
may not have proved so, but I believed what I said 
in 1930 and she believed me, too. When I left she 
laughed and waved her hand and assured me she 
would have her crutches and be ready to race me to 
the corner the next time I came through. 

Her father ushered me through the shop where he 
paused long enough to take a delicately beautiful 
unset cameo from a velvet-lined tray. "From Mary," 
he said, and handed it to me. "Please take it," he 
urged, when I hesitated. 

Excess generosity is one of the problems a handi- 
capped person faces. I have found that I am more 
likely to err in refusing than accepting. Seats offered 
me in crowded cars; special consideration in the queue 
at a theater; porters rushing through trains to open 
doors for me; shoppers giving me their turn at a busy 
counter in a store— and even cameos, presented by 
strangers. They all pose a problem. 

A handicapped person doesn't win any of these 
on his merit, and frequently he doesn't require any 
such thoughtfulness. In my childhood and teens, I 
am sure I was very rude in my constant huffy refusals 

117 



OUT ON A LIMB 

of any kind of aid. I have grown more mellow, more 
sensible, and, I believe, more kindly. 

Frequently I accept proffered places in crowded 
buses or trolleys, from tired, elderly men who I know 
need the seats much more than I. But, according to 
faultless authority, "It is more blessed to give than 
to receive." For the most part, I am convinced it is 
up to the handicapped person graciously to let the 
giver be blessed. 

I took the lovely little cameo, and I sincerely believe 
that the Englishman was just as happy over the gift 
as I was. 



118 



CHAPTER XI 

In No Sense a Broad 

In Holland my crutches introduced me into another 
family circle. This time, a very old gentleman in 
Amsterdam started talking to me at a great rate in 
Dutch. Grandma, dear old cynic, had especially 
warned me against foreigners. 

"Don't believe a word they say. You mustn't trust 
a man who can't speak English. You never know 
what nonsense he may be handing you." 

It is true, I didn't know one word of Dutch, but 
I am sure even Grandmother would have understood 
the old gentleman. For one thing, he held his two 
hands folded together on his chest— a protuberance 
which blended and lost itself in a tremendous stomach 
—and he bobbed his head and smiled in a manner 
completely benign. As his conversation continued— or 
rather his monologue, for I didn't say anything except, 
"American, American"— he made gestures. 

He pointed at my leg and then made a violent 
slashing motion at his own, and surprisingly enough 
for one of his age and bulk, he did a few deep-knee 

119 



OUT ON A LIMB 

bends. I decided he must wear an artificial leg on 
which he was obviously an agile performer. 

He grinned broadly, pointed into space and made 
a beckoning motion. "Speak English," he put in as a 
lure, but there was no doubt he was referring to some- 
one else's talents. I followed him across the street and 
halfway down the block where he paused in front of 
an orthopedic supply shop. 

The window displayed the usual obscenely naked 
legs, trusses, braces, crutches, bizarre corsets, etc. At 
the door we were met by a square, blond Hollander 
who wore a leather apron and who limped slightly. 
Here apparently was the artificial leg— not on the old 
man. The elderly gentleman still beaming contentedly, 
once more gave out a great mouthful of his own 
language. 

The younger man then turned to me and spoke in 
excellent English. "This is my old father. He brought 
you here because he believes that in America they 
do not have the artificial legs. My father thinks only 
the Dutch are so smart." He laughed. "He wanted 
you to see the Dutch legs such as I wear. My father 
believes the Indians still fight the white people over 
the sea and that maybe you were shot with the 
poisoned arrow. He thinks I am the very important 
people because I make the legs." 

"Well, I think you re very important, too," I agreed. 

120 



IN NO SENSE A BROAD 

"I'd very much like to see your shop. Do you have 
your knee? You walk very well." 

This is a question always of prime interest among 
artificial-leg wearers. 

"No knee," he told me. "Do you have the knee?" 

This conversation between strangers may seem 
somewhat off the polite path of small talk, but it is 
a typical opener between amputees. 

The young Hollander took me into the back room 
and gave me a stool to sit on while he proudly demon- 
strated his machine tools by shaving the epidermis 
off a couple of half -finished thighs. His father got out 
some polish and carefully rubbed a shine on my rose- 
wood crutches. As he worked he muttered, "Good, 
good, speak English, good, good," under his breath, 
smiling all the while in a way that would have satisfied 
even Grandmother. 

The old man followed us around and once more 
began pouring out his Dutch. He raised his voice to 
a higher and higher pitch, apparently of the conviction 
that if he spoke loud enough I'd eventually under- 
stand him. 

"My father wants to give you the beer or. the 
chocolate," the younger man interpreted. 

Again I was the cause of a shop closing at an odd 
hour. The three of us walked down the block to a 
confectionary where we imbibed a thick delicious 
chocolate drink. 

121 



OUT ON A LIMB 

The incident wasn't, I suppose, especially signifi- 
cant. I have seen many shops similar to the one in 
Amsterdam, and I had the price of a cup of chocolate 
in my purse. But during my European travels, stopping 
in the favorite tourist hotels and invading museums 
that had already thoroughly bored the local citizenry, 
I met only Americans. I like Americans. They're dandy, 
but they weren't exactly a novelty. I'd been running 
into them for years. 

It was fun to meet the natives, a privilege that was 
mine merely because I didn't wear two shoes. The 
fact that the Hollanders behaved precisely like Ameri- 
cans put special meaning in the incident. It gave me 
evidence that there are no national boundaries to the 
appeal in a pair of crutches. 



My prize experience, in which the crutches played 
the leading role, occurred in Paris. It was a very star- 
tling case of mistaken identity. I am frequently taken 
for some other one-legged girl. In Los Angeles, for 
instance, I have a friend, Ruth Wright, a very clever 
decorator, who also has a right leg amputation. I have 
been mistaken for her upon a number of occasions for 
no reason at all except that we both use crutches and 
frequent the same haunts. We don't resemble each 
other in the least. She has been mistaken for me, 
too. On several occasions acquaintances of mine 

122 



IN NO SENSE A BROAD 

have asked me, "Who was that distinguished-looking 
bearded man I saw you with the other night?" Ruth's 
husband is a distinguished gentleman with a beard, 
but I don't go out with him in the evenings. 

I should have remembered this tendency to mis- 
identify, that day in Paris, but it didn't occur to me. 
I was strolling along the Place de L'Opera one after- 
noon, decked out in my best navy and white print, 
my white hat and white crutches. I was happily 
minding my own negligible business which consisted 
in gawking at people and marveling at the continually 
amazing fact that I was in Paris strolling along the 
Place de L'Opera, in my best navy and white print, etc. 

All of a sudden, I felt someone touch my arm. 
Startled, I turned to look into the serious face of a 
thin, bespectacled young man. He looked as if he'd 
been reared in a library and eaten the leaves from 
dictionaries in lieu of lettuce. Except for the fact that 
he seemed to be speaking fluent French, he might 
have been an academic genius from almost any Ameri- 
can college. 

"Je ne voudrai que causer avec vous, mademoiselle," 
he said. "Je vous payerai I'honoraire habituel. Je suis 
ecrivain, vous voyez, et je vais ecrire un livre dans 
lequel ily aun caractere comme vous." 

His recitation seemed to cause him acute discom- 
fort, but I didn't recognize his complaint from my 
avid study of a valuable volume entitled, Brighter 

123 



OUT ON A LIMB 

French, Colloquial, Idiomatic, and (mildly) Technical 
for Bright Young People (who already know some). 
This was a splendid little collection of witty repartee, 
and although I learned a bright saying from it daily, 
I never seemed to choose one that came in handy. 

The young man appeared to be suffering from 
something— frustrated love, I decided, or a bilious 
attack. 

Being loath to admit my shocking ignorance, I said, 
"Oui, oui" and pointed off vaguely in the opposite 
direction. Apparently this was a satisfactory reply. 

"Epatant!" the young man said, and hung onto my 
arm like a leech. He seemed increasingly distressed 
about life. 

"Epatant, your own self!" I shook myself free. 
"What's the matter with you anyway?" 

I fell naturally into English since I couldn't fall 
naturally into anything else. 

"My gosh!" he gasped and blushed to the roots 
of his blond hair which, incidentally, could have stood 
the services of a good barber. He pulled himself away 
from me as if I were a fallen woman who'd threatened 
his spotless celibacy. "You're an American girl!" 

"What do I look like— Ethiopian?" I snapped. "You 
don't look so Latin yourself." 

"Oh, I'm an American, certainly. And honestly I 
do beg your pardon. But, you know, really— let me 
tell you something. You shouldn't use those white 

124 



IN NO SENSE A BROAD 

crutches. My goodness, I should say you shouldn't— 
not in Paris!" 

"I certainly don't know what concern it is of yours," 
I said primly, and stiffening my back I hastened off 
down the street. But he came plodding right along 
behind me. 

"Honestly, I'm telling you— do what I say— " he 
gasped. "Don't use the white crutches. I'd say the 
same thing to my own sister." 

"Well, you just run along then and tell your sister 
not to wear her white crutches." 

"Oh, my sister doesn't use crutches. You see—" 

"I see all right," I announced righteously. "You are 
intoxicated and if you don't let me alone I'll call a 
cop— I mean a gendarme!' 

In sheer desperation I got in a taxicab. Nothing was 
so distracting to me as trying to count the proper 
tip for a Paris cab driver. The dejected lad just stood 
on the sidewalk shaking his head sadly while I drove 
away. 

I almost forgot this peculiar performance in the 
excitement of getting ready to go out that evening. 
I was invited to a very gay and very "Latin" party 
with Benny Tompkins, a dreamy-looking boy with a 
beard from Brooklyn. That is, Benny was from Brook- 
lyn. The beard was pure Parisian. He was in Paris 
studying art. He was cleverly learning to paint familiar 
things so they couldn't be recognized. I imagine he 

125 



OUT ON A LIMB 

came in mighty handy in camouflage during the war. 

I dressed myself up all fancy, including a horrible 
pair of dangling, bizarre earrings. It struck me pleas- 
antly that I looked exactly like an exotic temptress. 
I was very elated over this pending festivity since it 
was going to be just terribly "Frenchy." As a matter 
of fact, there wasn't anything there more French than 
a four-year major in the subject from Harvard, U.S.A. 
Still, it satisfied me. I felt that I was living dangerously 
—part of the fast International Set. We sat on the 
floor in a dank apartment and drank wine, and the 
girls didn't look quite nice to me. However, when I 
recall my own getup for the occasion, I suspect we 
all looked about the same. 

Shortly after I got there, in came the woeful-faced 
complainer with the white-crutch complex. 

"My goodness!" I whispered to Benny, "that man 
who just came in is crazy." 

"He's nuts all right," Benny agreed. "He's trying to 
write a book that is just chock-full of sin and I don't 
think he's ever done anything more daring in his life 
than get intimate with an irregular verb." 

"Well, he acted very queer to me today." I told 
Benny all about it. 

"Oh, my Lord!" Benny howled. "He probably 
wanted to interview you. I bet he mistook you for 
the famous one-legged French prostitute. She always 
uses white crutches." 

126 



IN NO SENSE A BROAD 

"A pros—" but I couldn't even say the word. "One 
of those?" The very idea appalled me. 

This was precisely the case. 

I didn't regard the confusion as flattering. My idea 
of a prostitute was none too glamorous. I pictured a 
figure by Rubens, with a hip-swish like Sadie Thomp- 
son, packaged in sleazy satin and draped with a 
feather boa, and over it all a suffocating aroma of 
cheap perfume. Since then I have heard about and 
read the sketchy accounts of this same French prosti- 
tute's courageous activity and leadership in the Paris 
underground during the Nazi occupation, and I am 
quite proud of that brief mistaken identity. 



127 



CHAPTER XII 



Wolves and Lambs 



When I returned from Europe, the ship had 
scarcely scraped its dock before I began worry- 
ing because I didn't have a job. Actually, a solvent 
family, a comforting number of generous friends, and 
a reasonable chance of earning my own living, stood 
firmly between me and starvation. But I had the 
quaint notion that if I didn't get on a pay roll promptly, 
my only alternative was the bread line, with a vitamin 
deficiency, scurvy, and the immediate decalcification 
of all my bones. 

Carefully preserved throughout my journey was a 
letter in my purse which introduced me, with some 
flattering phrases, to the field secretary of a large 
national girls' organization whose headquarters were 
in Chicago. I had operated for four summers on the 
Pacific Coast as a counselor in the camps of this organi- 
zation. According to the Los Angeles executive, my 
work was highly satisfactory. She had used me in 
various capacities— camp craft, handcraft, swimming, 
hiking, etc. The children liked me and I had no dis- 

128 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

cipline problems. Aside from the fact that I couldn't 
light a fire by rubbing two sticks together and wasn't 
particularly quick-tongued at naming all the feathered 
friends who winged over, I had an honorable record 
behind me. 

In fact, the Los Angeles executive was sufficiently 
impressed to express the opinion that I had something 
of a talent for leading the young. She encouraged me 
to consider seriously the possibility of a career in 
her organization. With this in mind, she equipped 
me with the introduction and suggested that I stop 
over in Chicago on my return long enough to discuss 
the matter with the national executive. 

Although I had gotten an alluring sniff of printer's 
ink and fancied the idea of flourishing a press card 
in the faces of policemen guarding recently murdered 
corpses, I still was not averse to considering an offer 
along more uplifting lines. The national economy, as 
well as my own, being what it was, I was eager, in 
fact, to consider anything. I squandered two days 
in Chicago for this mission. 

With due respect for my first interview, I scrubbed 
myself into a fine scent and shine, manicured my 
nails, gargled Listerine, touched my face chastely 
with makeup, arrayed myself in tailored navy blue 
with the traditional touches of starched white, and 
went forth with my letter clutched in a properly 
gloved hand. I was not overconfident. In fact, I was 

129 



OUT ON A LIMB 

terrified. But my qualms were only those of facing a 
new experience. I didn't actually expect to be hired 
on the spot, since jobs at that time were about as 
plentiful as crown jewels floating in the gutter. But 
I thought the chances were fair that I would be 
turned down with sincere regret. I had seen a good 
many of the sturdily built spinsters in their healthy 
shoes and middy blouses who gave forth their light 
in the name of this organization. Frankly, I felt that 
the sight of me, sleek and slim and all abloom with 
red corpuscles, might even inspire the lofty national 
secretary into a few ladylike cheers. 

I was completely unprepared for the blasting brush- 
off I got. Tve never experienced one like it since, I 
am glad to say. I hope no other handicapped person 
in the world ever emerged from his first job interview 
as thoroughly banged up emotionally as I was. Three 
or four such shiny moments in a row would have 
settled me permanently in a back room cutting out 
paper dolls. The incredible aspect of the situation 
was not that the Leader of Youth sincerely believed 
that it would be impossible for me to carry one of her 
torches on crutches, but that she told me off with a 
hiss that would have done credit to a desert diamond- 
back rattlesnake. 

I handed her my letter in the reception room where 
she was introduced to me by one of her henchmen. 
She had just returned from luncheon— an interlude 

130 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

which I suspect she spent stuffing herself with choco- 
late eclairs. It may even have been indigestion, not 
malice, that motivated her. 

She did not invite me into her office, nor did she 
sit down or suggest that I sit down. I was all primed 
modestly to mention my I.Q., my college honors, my 
church affiliation, and the names of several sterling 
characters who thought I was just dandy. But she 
didn't ask me any questions. She scanned the letter 
briefly and dropped it on a table. Then she let me 
have it with two guns, shot straight from her generous 
hips. 

She told me that with my horrible handicap I should 
never for a moment consider an active job that in- 
volved leadership of young people or contact with 
the public. Her implication was not only that I was 
halt, but that the very sight of me would warp a 
sensitive young mind. 

In frantic haste to justify my mad entertainment of 
such ridiculous heresy, I tried to tell her how fast I 
could swim, how far I could hike, and all about my 
four summers in camp and the serenely happy and 
uncomplicated reactions of all the children I had 
shepherded. 

I didn't talk very well because there was a sob 
suffocating its lonely self in my tight throat. I finally 
left and walked twenty-two blocks to my hotel rather 
than get in a taxi and let the driver see me cry. 

131 



OUT ON A LIMB 

Feverishly I condemned my father, Mr. Fultz, my 
high school teachers, and my college professors for 
misleading me with the ludicrous myth that I had 
not only a fair, but a better-than-average chance for 
success in the economic world. 

This woman who had so brashly told me the Truth 
was the head of an organization founded on Christian 
principles whose sole purpose for existence— aside 
from supplying salaries to her and others of her ilk- 
was helping girls who were not many years younger 
than I. Where else could I possibly expect a gentler 
reception and a more cautiously kind letdown than 
right there? 

The very thought of what a hard-boiled newspaper 
editor would say to me when I brazenly asked him 
for a job terrorized my nights. If I had only started 
out on one of those hard-boiled editors, what a differ- 
ence it would have made in my psychology! I've been 
turned down by some of the reputably toughest and 
most artistically blasphemous editors in the business, 
but not one of them ever took the spring out of my 
step and sent me home to sop up my tears in a pillow. 
Compared to that first female werewolf who bared her 
teeth at me, the editors were a frolicking bunch of 
cozy, cuddly lambs. 

When I finally got home to Los Angeles, I was 
scared of my one-legged shadow. I bit my tongue 
with my chattering teeth many a time during the 

132 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

next month while I job-hunted. Nobody advertised 
for help in those days. Father gave me exclusive use 
of his car and I drove all over Southern California, 
apologetically peddling my talents to suburban and 
small-town newspapers. 

I am sure I don't know how many— if any— editors 
turned me down because I used crutches. None of 
them inflamed my nerves by admitting to that point 
of view anyway. They all put whipped cream and 
maraschino cherries on their refusals. Everyone gave 
me a real hearing, comfortably seated, with plenty 
of time and advice thrown in free. 

One editor did hint that the crutches might prove 
a hindrance to my career, but he made the comment 
under the most comforting circumstances possible. 
"One of my reporters is leaving to be married in three 
months," he told me. "I'll hold the job for you, unless 
you let me know that you're satisfactorily located 
elsewhere by that time." 

Then he went on: "I think you'd do very well here. 
This is a small town and I imagine you make friends 
readily. I'd like to have you work for me. You'd never 
get anywhere on this paper, however. There's just no 
place to get, and I expect you have large ambitions. 
Frankly, I think you should be advised that a big 
metropolitan daily probably would hold your crutches 
against you in a straight reportorial job. It's a pretty 
lively business." 

133 



OUT ON A LIMB 

He could have told me I was cross-eyed at that 
point, however, and it wouldn't have ruffled me a bit. 
He was my dream man— dear old septuagenarian that 
he was, with his bald pate and silver-rimmed spec- 
tacles. He'd offered me a job with a salary. Twenty 
dollars a week— for that he could burn me on an altar, 
if he had a mind to. 

I didn't have to wait for that job, however. Three 
days later the California Newspaper Publishers Asso- 
ciation notified me that the Citizen in Covina, twenty 
miles from Los Angeles, needed a reporter. I phoned 
for an appointment with the editor James Wickizer, 
a young man fresh from the Columbia School of 
Journalism and determinedly precise and full of pro- 
gressive ideas. He practically swore me in on a style 
book. 

Two hours later I sat down at a typewriter and began 
knocking out the most dangerous of all small-town 
copy, the society news (pink— pink— pink— flowers, 
candles and ice cream). I rented a spare bedroom for 
fifteen dollars a month from the local sheriff's wife, 
opened a bank account with the fifty dollars Father 
gave me for a stake in life, and, poor fool that I am, 
I've been self-supporting ever since. 

I never did forge ahead to my ambition— a by-line 
on a front-page murder story in the New York Times. 
I was detoured by a variety of positions that were 
laid out on salvers and served to me. I stayed just a 

134 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

year on the newspaper and then went back to Clare- 
mont, my college town, to marry my professor and 
take a proffered job in the Admissions Department of 
Scripps College. There, subsequently, I also assisted 
Dr. Mary Eyre, a psychologist, with a mental hygiene 
clinic and a child-guidance center. 

I doubt if the editors of large metropolitan dailies 
tossed sleeplessly when I was lost to the newspaper 
world. They probably never would have flung them- 
selves at my foot with pleas that I work for them. But 
I did discover during my year of reporting that the 
handicap was a help, not a hindrance, to my trade. 

In the first place, crutches are very disarming. They 
seem to have unique power to open close mouths. 
Women bared their secrets to me and cheerfully 
ripped the garments off their neighbors' souls as well. 
Nobody likes to turn a crippled person away from a 
door— not without first inviting him in to rest a bit. 
They asked me questions until we were cozy. Then I 
asked them questions and they invariably opened up. 

On a few occasions I went into Los Angeles, to 
cover stories with a local tie-in, where I ran into the 
resistance and competition that characterizes city re- 
porting. I could slip in without struggle where a pair 
of muscular legs wouldn't have carried a kicking prize 
fighter. 

I once stood at a carefully guarded door with the 
exasperated and frustrated press. The granite Horatio 

135 



OUT ON A LIMB 

with the police badge didn't look as if a tender emo- 
tion could possibly sprout on his hard surface, but 
he reached out with his nightstick and touched me 
on the shoulder. 

"There's a chair right inside here if you'd like to 
sit down while you wait." 

I didn't want to sit down— or wait. What I did want 
terribly was a sprinter's chance at the corridor on 
the other side of the entry. I hesitated, however. It 
certainly was a situation offering unfair advantage. 
Honor reared its haloed head. 

A tweedy-looking mess standing next to me gave 
me a poke. "I suppose you're not tired, you sucker!" 
he whispered out of the corner of his mouth that 
wasn't occupied by pipe or chewing gum. He was a 
remarkable person— he could chew and smoke simul- 
taneously. "You're young, kid, but you're never going 
to make a newspaper woman if you don't get in that 
door, rest your fanny for five seconds on that chair, 
and then take off. That lump isn't going to chase you 
because in the first place his feet hurt and in the 
second place he knows we'll all storm in if he does. 
He won't shoot you, dearie— you're a doe." 

"Oh, my—" I whispered back. "But what will every- 
one think?" 

"They're probably planning to use crutches next 
time themselves." 

"Thanks very much— I would like to sit down," I 

136 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

said and walked through the entrance. My friend 
Baggy Tweeds was right. I touched my derriere to 
the chair to make it legal. 

"I'm rested now," I announced forthrightly, just to 
give the sergeant a righting chance, and then I was 
off and quite unpursued. 

The reporters approved, apparently. They all yelled, 
"That's a girl!" 

"She's only on a stinking little country sheet any- 
way," someone said. "That guy in the D.A.'s office is 
from her town. They probably don't go to press till 
next Thursday." 

That was right on the nose. The L.A. papers had 
the story on the street three days before our paper 
was laid out in the forms. But nobody can ever argue 
me out of the conviction that crutches aren't a handy 
accessory to a reporter's costume. 

And now, page Ripley! That blasting initial inter- 
view I had in Chicago netted me a job. It was the 
damned-out crutches that did it, too. I had been per- 
forming on the newspaper for only a few weeks when 
I got a letter, postmarked New York, from a total 
stranger. A minor and more benign executive who 
had overheard that fatal brush-off repeated it, in 
substance, to an acquaintance. She picked precisely 
the proper ears into which to pour her story. A two- 
crutch man himself, Edward Hungerford of the New 

137 



OUT ON A LIMB 

York Central Railroad, regarded me, I suspect, as a 
cause. Any insult to crutch-users stirred his fighting 
blood like a battle hymn. 

He wrote me, sight-unseen, that he was building an 
organization to stage "Wings of a Century," a big 
transportation pageant at the Century of Progress and 
that he felt there might be a place for me if I were 
interested. He would interview me on his next trip 
to California and in the meantime, if I cared to con- 
sider his offer, please submit credentials. I submitted. 

Two years later when the big bulldozers moved in 
on Michigan's lake front, I moved in on Chicago. It 
was a swell job. I worked on publicity and watched 
the Fair sprout out of the barren ground, and flower. 

Among a few things that I learned from the Century 
of Progress, I will pass one profitable trifle on to pos- 
terity. A one-legger can make a fool out of a weight 
guesser. Scattered around the midway and in odd 
corners of the fairgrounds were a smattering of minor 
concessionaires whose equipment consisted of a swing- 
like seat attached to a set of scales, a stack of two- 
pound boxes of stale candy, and some horrible pallid 
Kewpie dolls, plus the brains in their heads. These 
bright boys offered, for a price, to guess your weight 
within three pounds. Failing to do this, they paid off 
in their pretty premiums. Their technique was to feel 
the arms of their victims, look pensive a minute, and 
then state the approximate avoirdupois. They didn't 

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WOLVES AND LAMBS 

throw their weights around either. They were hitting 
very close to the bull's-eye. 

There is nothing so hard as a crutch user's biceps. 
He walks on his arms, and it's fine exercise for de- 
veloping muscle. I've often wished wistfully that I 
had an excuse to pack a wallop to someone's jaw, just 
to test my own strength. 

The first weight guesser who fell into my trap was 
collecting quarters at a great rate and hanging onto 
his horrible wares. I stepped up and he felt my arm 
and gave me a respectful bow. "Solid," he announced. 

He made no allowances for my soft places— and he 
apparently didn't consider just how much a well-set- 
up gam weighs. He guessed me 132 pounds— just 27 
pounds over. 

I played every weight guesser on the grounds, for a 
sucker. The winnings, however, a carload of ghastly 
chalky grinning Kewpies and the inedible chocolates, 
were hardly worth the effort. 

It was at the Fair in Chicago that I met an engineer 
who built for me what he called "The Royal Nonesuch 
ne Plus Ultra Pedal Coordinator" for my car. This 
kindly genius decided that although I drove a standard 
car skillfully, using the technique of throwing my 
car out of gear, before pushing on the foot brake, 
that both the public and I would be considerably 
safer if my clutch and brake were coordinated. This 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

was prior to the marketing of the Bendix free-wheeling 
device which, in spite of some weaknesses, subse- 
quently proved a boon to one-legged drivers. 

With a great deal of trouble and expense, and 
with clever ingenuity, my friend invented, built, and 
installed a brake and clutch coordinator in my car. 
It was designed to fit a Model A Ford and was highly 
successful, but unfortunately it was not transferable 
to another make. I did, however, have Bendix install 
free-wheeling in a Chevrolet that I owned later. 

At the present time I drive a car with standard 
equipment. Come the millennium, however, I hope to 
possess the new Oldsmobile with the best of all devices 
for safe one-legged operation— the hydramatic drive. 
The Cadillac, to which I frankly don't aspire, also has 
this exceedingly efficient feature. 

Insurance companies are a bit cool in their reception 
of handicapped drivers. Even with a spotless record 
and a fistful of operators' licenses from a variety of 
states staring them in the face, they are reluctant to 
write policies for one-legged drivers. I have always 
managed to get coverage, but I have shopped around 
for it and I have gone through some devilishly con- 
trived tests to prove my skill. 

The handicapped drivers that I know, all share my 
exceptional caution behind the wheel of a car. They 
realize, as I do, that in a court case, a one-legger 

140 



WOLVES AND LAMBS 

would have a tough time convincing a jury that he 
wasn't at fault, irrespective of the circumstances of 
accident. The new automatic clutch in the Oldsmo- 
bile and the Cadillac should eliminate this prejudice 
completely. 



141 



CHAPTER XIII 

Reading and Writing and Pig Latin 

There was one profession to which I never gave 
serious thought during that preemployment 
period when I digested the Want Ads along with my 
breakfast coffee. That was school teaching. In fact, to 
insure myself permanently against such a fate, I had 
carefully avoided in college all courses labeled "Edu- 
cation.'' The one symbol of achievement that I didn't 
aim to hang in my study, alongside my deer antlers, 
was a teacher's certificate. Also, after the advice 
handed me so vehemently during my first job inter- 
view, I regarded it as providential that I had never 
aspired to a career of wielding the ruler. 

But I stumbled into teaching when my husband 
was asked to take over the headmaster's position at 
Norton, a boarding and day school for small boys, in 
the country just outside Claremont, California. I am 
not sure just how capable I was as a teacher. I've 
never had a chance to make a survey of the adult 
spelling and punctuation of my charges, but I do 
know, in spite of that harsh warning I had, I didn't 

142 



READING AND WRITING AND PIG LATIN 

leave the landscape littered with little twisted minds. 

The only twisting that was done was by the boys. 
They twisted me around their little fingers. I'm always 
a fool for a handsome man, and I discovered I was a 
complete pushover for the particular brand of charm 
peddled by males between the ages of eight and 
fourteen. Even with a toad in grubby hand and a 
snake crawling out of a corduroy pocket, any little 
disheveled ten-year-old could sell me an ice conces- 
sion in Greenland. 

I am convinced that the most delightful method of 
being driven crazy is by a horde of small boys. Their 
consistent clatter and vocalizing proved even more 
musical to my ears than my formerly top-tune favorite 
—the roar of presses. 

It wasn't the teaching itself that I liked so much- 
it put an awful tax on my spelling— or the salary, 
which was negligible. It was just that I met so many 
interesting people and it was all so broadening and 
educational. I learned to associate in a manner quite 
cozy with snakes, and in pure self-defense, I developed 
a fancy for crawling things and white mice. I was 
taught to spin a top and shoot a fair game of marbles. 
I learned to speak fluent Pig Latin and Op, a much 
more erudite language. I also learned that a face 
like a Botticelli angel was a thing of beauty but not 
necessarily a joy forever. A head that would have 
looked perfectly natural with a halo cocked over it, 

143 



OUT ON A LIMB 

could, I discovered, contrive most delightful and 
devilish mischief. 

This idyllic job had the slight disadvantage of 
requiring duty approximately twenty-five hours a day, 
and it also necessitated, for purposes of noble example, 
consumption of vast quantities of oatmeal and other 
healthy, uninteresting delicacies. But the life was too 
active to encourage fat, and I was too entranced to 
be wearied by my long hours. 

Such was my enthusiasm for this kind of punish- 
ment that I insisted upon being flailed in the summer- 
time too. I pooled my strength with that of two masters 
and ran a camp for boys at Lake Arrowhead— Camp 
Robin Hood— complete with lethal weapons, bows and 
arrows. 



I have a friend, only very slightly handicapped by 
infantile paralysis, who is a magnificent teacher. She 
didn't choose teaching as a profession because, like so 
many girls, nothing more imaginative occurred to her. 
She decided to teach because it was the one thing 
she wanted most to do. That rare attitude of mind, 
I am convinced, should have influenced every school 
board in the country to barter for her services. She 
is now a successful instructor in a large metropolitan 
system where she has thoroughly proved her merit. 
But she had a long and discouraging struggle getting 

144 



READING AND WRITING AND PIG LATIN 

a job— for no reason except a slight weakness in her 
knees. A childhood illness resulted in disability and 
disfigurement that was so slight as to be negligible. 
A twenty-four-legged muscular centipede, miracu- 
lously endowed with the mind of a genius, couldn't 
give more lavish gifts to children. But for a number 
of years, it looked as if she'd never have a chance 
to distribute her gifts. There is a tendency to scream 
for normalcy in the public school systems. Handi- 
capped teachers are more likely to be found in the 
more resilient private school organizations. 

I am, of course, not in a position to argue against 
this prejudice by presenting statistically reliable evi- 
dence. All I can say is that the young boys I taught 
took my handicap in their stride. They gave it little 
if any thought. Similarly they took in their stride the 
handicap of another member of our teaching staff. 

The most thoroughly beloved and most successful 
master we had, was a young and vigorous man who 
had one crippled foot, victimized by polio. The boys 
admired, with the typical enthusiasm of their age 
group, the strong-legged athletic young men who 
supervised their play hours, but they loved the master 
who carried the physical handicap and who also 
carried a much more damaging handicap to popu- 
larity—the school master's weightiest burden, the 
teaching of Latin. 

It was not perverted sympathy either, that prompted 

145 



OUT ON A LIMB 

their devotion. The master was completely worthy in 
every respect to be top favorite with his students. 
The lameness had no bearing one way or another on 
his position in the hearts of the boys. His attractive- 
ness of personality, his rich understanding, and his 
skill and discipline in the classroom, would have 
made him a fine teacher, without his handicap; they 
made him an equally fine teacher with his handicap. 
In fact, his disability may even have enhanced his 
value as a teacher in a subtle way that perhaps was 
neither recognized by himself nor his pupils. I feel 
sure that the children in their natural experience of 
identifying themselves with this thoroughly beloved 
teacher achieved an understanding attitude toward 
the handicapped person in general that no amount 
of instruction or moralizing would have implanted. 

Also, should it happen that any of these boys in 
later life suffered some disability themselves, there is 
no doubt that their mental recovery and acceptance 
would be more rapid and complete because of the 
fortification of the memory of this well-adjusted, 
happy, useful man. 

To me, the following incident significantly demon- 
strates a schoolboy's attitude toward a handicapped 
teacher. Recently I happened to run onto one of our 
old Norton students, now grown into quite impressive 
manhood. Our conversation inevitably led to this 
favorite master. 

146 



READING AND WRITING AND PIG LATIN 

"I hear he's married now," the boy said, "and has 
a bunch of kids. I bet he's a swell father. I've never 
had a teacher who held a candle to him." 

"He was remarkably active for a man with a handi- 
cap, too," I added, with the cold-blooded intention 
of prodding for an opinion on this subject. 

"Why, that's right—" The boy looked quizzical. 
"He was lame, wasn't he?" 

I certainly do not follow this idea through with 
the recommendation that all handicapped people 
promptly start plugging for school-teaching jobs. I 
merely subscribe to the theory that, granted the quali- 
fications of personality and training which make a 
normal person a good teacher, a physically handi- 
capped person is at no disadvantage. This point of 
view may be applied to any other profession as well. 

Paradoxically, if a handicapped person is not basi- 
cally warmhearted and likeable, his physical abnor- 
mality may prove an insurmountable mountain to him 
in the field of teaching. Children are likely to choose 
an obvious peg on which to hang their scorn. I once 
knew a teacher in my own early school years, who 
behind her back was referred to as "Old Droopy Eye." 
Even I, as a one-legged little girl who should have 
had more natural compassion for a handicapped 
person, called her that without any consciousness of 
irony. 

She had an injured muscle in her right eyelid that 

147 



OUT ON A LIMB 

gave her a permanent semi-wink, but her personality 
was such that she never for a moment misled anyone 
into thinking her merely flirtatious. She was a veritable 
tartar, with not a modicum of softness in her nature. 
She shouldn't have been a teacher. She probably 
knew her grammar book by heart, and I don't doubt 
she could spell every word in Webster's Unabridged, 
but she didn't like children. I think it would have 
given her the greatest pleasure to hang her entire 
class by their thumbs. We pupils felt this and returned 
the sentiment with enthusiasm. Since we subcon- 
sciously wanted to identify the source of our hatred, 
we hooked it on her defect and called her "Old 
Droopy Eye." 

A psychologist friend of mine tells me that this is 
a fairly common tendency in children and is called 
"mechanism projection." If the hate had not been 
present anyway for some more valid reason, the de- 
fect would not have awakened it. 



Of course, my schoolboys took a certain amount of 
interest in my crutches—an interest identical with that 
displayed in my childhood by my contemporary play- 
mates. It was the inevitable young enthusiasm for 
anything that remotely resembled a vehicle on which 
to ride. The taller boys walked with my crutches and 
the smaller boys stood on chairs, leaned their weight 

148 



READING AND WRITING AND PIG LATIN 

in the saddles and swung off into space— quite an 
exciting sport. All sizes and varieties of boys tried 
to imitate my use of the crutches— as stilts. 

They were not beyond playing tricks on me either— 
a sort of harmless clipping of my wings. It was re- 
garded as something of a clever maneuver to kidnap 
my crutches without my knowing it. This was no 
small accomplishment since I am inclined to have 
them at my side constantly, and my mind if not my 
hand usually rests on them most of the time. The boys 
played this little game merely out of mischief— not 
meanness, as proved by the fact that they always 
posted a benevolent guard on me to be sure that I 
didn't need the crutches during the abduction. I con- 
tend that the very fact that they invented this non- 
sense at all was a healthy sign. They didn't hold my 
crutches in any awe or undue reverence. If they had, 
they would have ignored them completely with the 
most contrived and thoroughly false disinterest. 

The boys took some pride in my accomplishments, 
demanding that I demonstrate my one-legged physical 
feats to new boarders. In this spirit, one of the more 
memorable athletic contests staged at Norton was a 
crutch race that had all the fanfare of an Olympic 
competition. 

We had a physical education coach who ran the 
440 and the 880 for the Los Angeles Athletic Club. 
He banged up an ankle and was temporarily out- 

149 



OUT ON A LIMB 

fitted with a pair of my crutches, on which he was 
exceptionally adept for a temporary time-server. It 
occurred to one of the boys that under the circum- 
stances, a race between this damaged Mercury and 
me would be a fair and amenable contest— his skill 
as a trackman pitted against my skill on crutches. 

The bounds were laid out— a one-hundred-yard 
dash. With a good deal of solemn officialism, the boys 
set us off with a blank pistol shot. Our four crutches 
and two feet pranced down the course. It wasn't 
really a fair contest. A lifetime of two-footed running 
isn't good preparation for a one-legged sprint. I won, 
but just by the front freckle on my nose. I don't 
think I ever felt more of a genuine heroine, however. 
I know how a laurel wreath must feel on a noble brow. 

"Jeepers!" one small spectator remarked with awe. 
"She beat him, and he's a state champ." The little 
boy had apparently put out of his mind completely 
the rather unusual aspects of my victory. 



150 



CHAPTER XIV 

So Much in Common 

There is a certain freemasonry among amputees. 
I am always interested in meeting others of my 
species. Whether or not I coveted such encounters, 
however, I could hardly escape them. Friends, abso- 
lutely puffy and plumy over their cleverness, are con- 
stantly digging up one-legged people for me. With 
all the pride of a prospector bragging about knocking 
his pick against a vein of solid gold, they reveal their 
discovery. 

"Oh, my dear, you know the other day I met a 
girl who only has one leg." They usually begin in 
some such manner. "I don't know her really, of course, 
but I asked her to come to tea so that you two can 
meet. You're certain to be great friends. You have 
so much in common." 

In some respects this is just as adept socially as 
tossing off a party to which only persons who have 
had their appendices removed are invited. It's true 
the appendix-bereft would have quite a bit to say to 
each other. "My Doctor says . . ." ". . . never saw 

151 



OUT ON A LIMB 

a worse case in my life." "Under anesthetic two 
hours . . ." ", . . what I suffered." "You should see 
my scar! . . ." 

Appendicitis may be an excellent ice-breaker but 
it's only worth a one-night stand as a feature attraction. 
It's not a sound basis on which to build a beautiful 
friendship. The same is true of amputations. Accident 
like appendicitis is no respector of personalities. There 
is no assurance at all that just any two amputees who 
collide at a cocktail party will promptly become boon 
buddies, after their exchange of surgical detail. I don't 
recommend such a criterion for picking intimates. It's 
better to plod along in the old-fashioned way, de- 
pending upon personal rapport and common interests 
to determine permanent friendships, and take the 
handicaps where they happen to fall. 

However, I still recommend welcoming every oppor- 
tunity to meet others with similar handicaps. Some- 
times cordial enduring amity does develop from these 
encounters. And although occasionally just the oppo- 
site is true— you run smack into torpor— it's still worth 
the chance. Invariably the preliminaries, at least, are 
entertaining: the swapping of life stories, the inevi- 
table arguments : artificial-leg users vs. crutch addicts, 
the discussions of walking gear and techniques. Very 
often casually encountered members of the clan have 
made great contribution to my comfort by their sug- 
gestions—and I hope, vice versa. 

152 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

I met the first of "my own kind"— another one-legged 
girl— when I was about twelve. A week before this 
meeting, a rancher friend of Father's drove in from 
the country and called at our house. He told us that 
some of his Kansas kin were coming out to California 
on a visit. "The little girl's about your age," he ex- 
plained to me, "and she's 'that way,' too." Mother 
looked slightly pained. "You two kiddies ought to hit 
it off just fine," he said. 

A date was set for me to spend a whole day at the 
ranch. This would have been thrilling enough in itself, 
but combined with the anticipation of meeting a one- 
legged "kiddy" from Kansas, my excitement simply 
couldn't be cooped. 

Forthrightly, I even warned my best friend, Barbara 
Bradley, that the chances were she couldn't be my 
best friend much longer. Her days of such honor 
were numbered, as she could well understand herself. 
This single-cylinder Kansan and I were just bound 
to become bosom chums immediately. 

The day I went to the country, my hair was tightly 
braided in pigtails and then pinned around my head, 
and my face was scrubbed to a shine. I wore blue 
denim overalls, all fresh and clean, and a blue shirt. 
This was my favorite costume, and it had been pur- 
chased for just such occasions. Ranch life was always 
rough on my clothes since I liked to slide on hay, ride 
astride the sweaty backs of plow horses, cuddle up 

153 



OUT ON A LIMB 

to piglets and other barnyard young, and generally 
make a dirty mess of myself. 

When I arrived I met the little Kansan. She turned 
out to be two years older than I was. She was four- 
teen, but even if we'd both been two-legged and 
were the same age, we'd have been a world apart in 
interests. As it was we had nothing in common but 
a couple of feet in Heaven, and they probably were 
dancing on gold pavements at opposite ends of the 
town. 

She had lived on a middle-western farm most of 
her life, but it was I who resembled the farmerette. 
She was dressed in dainty sprigged muslin with a 
white slipper and stocking, and her hair was curled. 
I felt completely gauche in her presence. 

She was very nice to me, however. She inquired 
politely about my accident and told me about hers. 
She had dashed out in the street, with no thought of 
life or limb, in pursuit of an endangered kitten and 
had been run down by an automobile. This made her 
extremely heroic and put me at a disadvantage. All 
I'd done, after all, was disobey my mother by borrow- 
ing an ill-fated bicycle. Also, every year or so she 
had to go back to the hospital in Kansas City and 
have an operation. The bone in her stump continued 
to grow and required periodic pruning. For some 
reason that I do not understand but for which I am 
grateful to an able small-town surgeon, I have never 

154 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

had this recurrent trouble, common to many children 
whose amputations occurred early in life. This periodic 
drama in the Kansan's life also made me feel inferior 
by contrast. "I had two stitches in my head," I bragged 
in my own defense, "when I fell out of a tree/' I 
knew it wasn't much. 

More tedious, she wanted me to sit in a chair while 
she performed at the piano. She executed (by slow 
torture) a number called "Memories." Since my sister 
played the same ditty day and night at home, this 
wasn't exactly exciting to me who laid no claim to 
the appreciation of either music or romance. We 
finally went outside where we sat sedately under a 
tree and ate grapes. I amused myself by seeing how 
many I could stuff in my mouth at once, and the 
pretty little Kansan amused herself by watching the 
road— for the neighbor boys, I suspect. 

I spent a miserable day, and when I got home was 
greeted by Mother with the startled words, "My good- 
ness, you're clean! Didn't you have a good time?" 

I called up Barbara Bradley right away and assured 
her she was still my stanchest comrade. "Why, that 
girl is just like my sister Bernice," I said. "I couldn't 
have anyone like that for my best friend." 

It was a profound discovery I made that day— that 
one-leggedness may occur anywhere. It was like blue 
eyes or brown hair. It had nothing to do with con- 
geniality. The idea startled me, since I somehow had 

155 



OUT ON A LIMB 

labored under the illusion that all one-legged girls 
would be exactly like me; braces on the teeth, freckles 
on the nose and all. 

I have met a great many crippled people since 
then and some of them have developed into real 
friends. Even the most casual contacts, however, have 
been rewarding. One-leggedness is a common ground 
on which individuals of vast difference in background 
can meet and communicate. I have had fascinating 
conversations with handicapped persons whose lives 
were so divergent from my own that in the normal 
course of a two-legged life, I never even would have 
crossed their pathways. 

A jolly drunk who sold newspapers on a city corner 
and who happened to wear a peg leg, gave me a full, 
though perhaps slightly alcohol-flavored, account of 
himself one day while I waited for a bus. Similarly, 
I've learned all about the private lives of a taxi driver, 
an ex-policeman, a sculptor, a factory worker out on 
parole from a woman's reformatory, a little one-armed 
Negro orphan, a Japanese fruit peddler, an architect, 
etc., etc. We speak to each other. We flaunt our frater- 
nity badges. Whatever our limping walks in life we 
are all people of parts— missing. We stand on common 
ground. We may remain transients; we usually do. 
We meet; we pass on; but we enrich each other in 
the passing. 

There are two classes of amputees that I make 

156 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

particular effort to meet. Others I merely take as they 
come. I always try to acquaint myself with newcomers 
to the freemasonry, and recently maimed. Then I am 
probably as obnoxious as a first grader who has learned 
to spell "cat" and lords it over his little brother who 
is still in kindergarten. I pass out advice with the 
assurance of an established seer. However, I know 
from experience the value of a veteran's suggestions 
to the recruit. I regard my knowledge as inherited 
wealth that I am obliged to preserve, increase, and 
pass on to the next generation. Often I correspond 
with the recently handicapped in an effort to give 
encouragement during the inevitable anguish that 
precedes adjustment to the new way of life. 

In addition to the recently handicapped, from the 
grossest commercial motive, I am always on the prowl 
for females of the species who have missing left legs 
and who wear a size 5% B shoe. Here is a solid 
foundation on which to construct sodality. We ex- 
change our odd shoes. 

Ruth Rubin, an enterprising woman in St. Louis, 
a trained nurse, has as her imaginative and helpful 
hobby, a shoe exchange. She encourages one-leggers 
to write in their shoe sizes and mates up feet all over 
the country. My foster foot, for instance, lives in 
Burbank, California. The enterprise operates on the 
principle of a shoe for a shoe. 

This exchange proved especially useful to me during 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

shoe rationing. Unipeds are inclined to be more de- 
structive to footwear than ordinary people, since their 
entire weight rests in one shoe. Moreover, to maintain 
their balance, amputees tend to grab the earth harder 
with their single foot. With the limited number of 
shoe coupons provided, I would have been a scuffy- 
toed derelict if it hadn't been for the shoe exchange 
which kept me in slick footwear for the duration. 
My contributions similarly kept someone else well 
shod. The pleasant economy of such a scheme is 
obvious. 

There are other organizations that cater to the 
disabled. Most of these are founded on the premise 
that the handicapped need each other. They do- 
especially during their period of adjustment. Many 
of these fraternities publish little magazines that circu- 
late among the handicapped and publicize the stories 
of the members. Such publications are Outwitting 
Handicaps, the Spot-Lite, Courage, etc. They carry 
also an advertising section devoted to artificial legs 
and arms, stump socks, Ampu-Balm, wheel chairs, and 
other equipment for amputees. Most of these organi- 
zations exact a small membership fee or contribution 
which pays for the magazine and frequently for a 
variety of other helpful services: employment advice, 
advice on prosthesis, providing correspondence com- 
panions for hospitalized patients, etc. 

A few of the organizations are completely free, the 

158 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

service being the friendly contribution of some hu- 
manitarian hobbyist. For instance, a Hollywood man, 
Mr. Stuart Noble, although not handicapped him- 
self, entertains great compassion and understanding 
for the disabled. For many years he has been interested 
in assisting amputees. He organized a club called 
The Good Friends, and he has devoted a great deal 
of time and money to assisting the handicapped in 
making happy adjustments to life— helping them find 
friends and employment, etc. 

Edward Hungerford of New York, handicapped 
himself, collects crutch users who strike his fancy all 
over the country, and in a less formal way does the 
same thing for his collection that Mr. Noble does. 

The most adequate and able of all the organiza- 
tions, of course, is the National Society for Crippled 
Children and Adults, Inc. This society has forty-two 
well-organized official state affiliates, with some two 
thousand local chapters, and is based on the most 
intelligent and scientific approaches to the problems 
of the disabled. The magazine of this organization, 
The Crippled Child, features articles by recognized 
authorities on recovery methods, occupational therapy, 
rehabilitation, prosthesis, etc. This organization is 
financed by the annual national Easter-seal sales, by 
private subscription, and by state allotment of funds. 
A handicapped person in need of guidance of any 
sort would most wisely seek it here. 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

These organizations offer admirable encouragement 
and practical assistance to many disabled. In my 
opinion, their greatest service is to the newcomer to 
the clan, those who are groping "at the bottom of the 
worst" and who desperately need the fortification of 
others' experiences in recovery. 

Once an amputee is well adjusted to life, there is 
of course no necessity for his seeking his associates 
among the similarly maimed. In fact, too prolonged 
an interest in a personal physical abnormality is likely 
to breed an unhealthy introversion or sentimentalism. 

I have a uniped acquaintance who almost makes a 
profession of her handicap. I recognize this as a de- 
fense mechanism, but I don't condone it. She writes 
me long, six-page typewritten letters that are con- 
cerned from start to finish with her one-leggedness. 
She has been handicapped for many years. She is a 
contented wife, secure financially, equipped with a 
good mind, and in excellent health. I have gathered 
from her lengthy opera, however, that her one major 
interest in life is her physical abnormality. It's a strange 
perverted narcissism. If she would discuss some little 
feminine fripperies, flower arrangement, the breeding 
and care of canary birds, or methods for removing 
spots from fabrics— almost anything— I would continue 
writing to her. But I simply can't read six pages every 
two weeks devoted to her mental contortions over 
her long-buried extremity. It's like a widow conver- 

160 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

sationally digging up the remains of her twenty-year- 
deceased partner every time she gets you in a corner. 

Not that my thoroughly one-legged friend is grim 
in her attitude. On the contrary, she makes a fetish 
of cheerfulness. Her handwriting practically beams 
at me. She has gained great spiritual strength from 
her suffering and she never forgets it or fails to remind 
me of her beautiful burning inner light. It embarrasses 
me acutely. You have spiritual strength or you don't 
have it— so what? It's as bad taste to mention it as it 
is to brag about ancestors or a bulky bank account. 
If it's there, spiritual strength, like good breeding, 
shows itself; also, like good breeding, it sickens and 
dies by the mere act of self-recognition and adver- 
tisement. 

I know a young man who is blind and who gradu- 
ated with honors from the same college from which 
I graduated without honors. He never mentioned his 
spiritual strength. He didn't mention his blindness 
either. He didn't have to, his blindness and his spiritual 
strength were equally obvious. This young man had 
been to a school for the blind. He associated with 
blind people long enough to adjust himself to the 
hardships of his life, but he didn't spend his time 
sitting around with the blind and discussing blind- 
ness. He had many enthusiastic interests and his 
friends, who were legion— the halt, the blind, or just 

161 



OUT ON A LIMB 

plain standard merchandise—were those who shared 
his enthusiasms. 

My philosophizing letter-writer also reminds me 
periodically of my obligation to her. "We have to stick 
together, we handicapped," she says. "The rest of the 
world doesn't understand us." I'll string along with 
the world; it understands me O.K. 

It understands quite a few other one-legged people 
too. For instance, Herbert Marshall, the movie star— I 
wouldn't mind being on cozy terms with him. I think 
it might be absolutely lovely, but my interest isn't 
humanitarian. It has nothing to do with the fact that 
he wears an artificial leg and might need me to stick 
to him, poor thing, because the world doesn't under- 
stand him. Major Seversky has the world by the tail, 
too— and young Charles Bolte, the head of the new 
American Veterans Committee, swings along with the 
world even though his right side-kicker is timber. 
One-legged Laurence Stallings, the playwright, has 
an amenable relationship with the world, too. And 
what of the lovely-voiced Connie Boswell? Does the 
world fail to understand her songs because of her 
lack of legs? 

I have a very dear one-legged friend who is attrac- 
tive and interesting, and during the first ten minutes 
of our acquaintance she told me the circumstances 
of her accident and I told her the circumstances of 
mine. We have been friends for twenty years but our 

162 



SO MUCH IN COMMON 

congeniality is completely detached from our common 
handicap. We don't mention it for years on end. 

In fact, the only time that we are at all conscious 
of our similar state is when we go out somewhere 
and face the public together. I must say that in the 
aggregate, a crew of crutch-users limping into a big 
hotel dining room or a theater together create a stir 
that I don't enjoy. This young woman and I were 
both dinner guests one evening of a man who also 
used crutches. We marched through a popular 
crowded Hollywood restaurant, to the accompaniment 
of a terrific buzz. We might as well have been die 
Barrymores having a family reunion, except that 
nobody wanted our autographs. 

"One family, do you suppose?" I heard someone 
whisper. "All hurt in the same accident— and all lost 
a leg! Did you ever hear of such a thing in all your 
life!" "Maybe it's congenital— he passed it on to his 
two daughters . . ." 

It's funny, sure— funny as a crutch, as the saying 
goes. 

Whoops!— when I entertain my crutch-borne friends, 
proud as I am of them, I'd rather bend over a hot 
stove all day than take them to a restaurant. They 
feel the same way I do. We've all learned to tolerate 
the casual curiosity we create alone, but en masse 
the curiosity is not casual. It's suffocating! 



163 



CHAPTER XV 

Ski-doodling 

When the California judge severed the matri- 
monial tie that was binding, I decided to go 
to New York. I entrained from Los Angeles decked 
out in some hew grass widow's weeds, but I didn't 
feel much like a gay divorcee. I'd worn a ring on 
my finger and a ring in my nose so long, freedom 
didn't feel comfortable. I decided to take a year of 
graduate work at Columbia University because it was 
a long way from California. Although I entertained 
the usual maniacal idolatry of my native state, the 
place was suddenly cluttered with sentimental land- 
marks upon which I was frequently moved to shower 
mournful tears. Since the rainfall situation out there 
was adequate without my reinforcements, I decided 
to take my tears elsewhere. 

Before actually enrolling at Columbia, I went forth 
and looked over a few of the more impressive secre- 
tarial schools in New York, the kind that serve their 
students a cup of tea in the afternoon and guarantee 
all graduates pink, plush jobs. 

164 



SKI-DOODLING 

I, however, was different. I could buy my good 
little black dress from Saks, pay my tuition, and have 
my tea, but they wouldn't guarantee me placement. 

One of the personnel interviewers asked me if she 
could be frank. She said she thought it would be a 
fine thing if I enrolled in her school (I think she 
figured the finger exercises would be good for me) 
but she feared she couldn't place me as a secretary. 

"I don't think you'd be quite active enough— shall 
we say?— for the life." 

"Shall we say that you let me be frank for a while?" 
I didn't make that crack, of course. That's what I 
wished I'd said after I got home. 

Instead, in meek surrender, I went back up to 
Morningside Heights and enrolled in the School of 
Business at Columbia, signing up for an accelerated 
course in shorthand and typing offered yearly to 
twenty-five career-crazy college graduates. I felt like 
a jaded old hag among all the bright and eager just 
down from Smith and Wellesley. The placement 
service at Columbia had a much more hopeful atti- 
tude toward me. The counselor even rashly assured 
me that I would be easier to place than most, since 
I had had some experience, and that I could demand 
a better starting salary. She even got me a part-time 
job after class hours wasting stationery in one of the 
university offices. 

I had regarded learning shorthand and typing as 

165 



OUT ON A LIMB 

a dull chore to be endured for the sake of the economic 
tool that would thereby be fitted to my hand. It 
turned out, however, to be very interesting to me. 
This was probably due entirely to the instructress, 
Miss Zilla McDonald, who really put buck and wing 
into her teaching methods. She was a versatile person 
who taught shorthand and typing by day and then 
at night wrote very charming books for children. 



It was while I was in New York that I discovered 
in a small way just what happens to people who are 
unwise enough to get their pictures in the newspapers. 
Mother always had a theory that if you led the good 
life, you never got your photograph in the paper, 
unless you happened to be elected President of the 
United States, got married, or died honorably. 

Well, I led the good life all right, within fairly 
generous bounds anyway, but I got my picture in a 
New York paper and it wasn't because I happened 
to be elected President of the United States. On the 
final analysis there was really no reason at all for this 
phenomenon. 

Being a Californian, I had had no convenient 
opportunity to learn to ski. That winter in New York, 
however, I just happened to fall into a crowd who 
chattered on and on about wax and bindings and 
slalom races and Christies and a lot of other things 

166 



SKI-DOODLING 

that I still don't understand. All this talk went into my 
blood like a hopped-up transfusion. I too began watch- 
ing the temperature and scanning the boards in Grand 
Central to see if any ski trains were scheduled. 

Finally, one day I took the fatal step that was to 
land me on my fanny many a future time. I went into 
Best's and bought myself a neat but not gaudy ski 
suit, complete with a heavy cableknit turtle-neck 
sweater and a cap to match. It involved such a heavy 
expenditure that I couldn't afford not to use it. So, 
to protect my investment, I went to Macy's and bought 
skis, boots, trappings and a pair of ski poles. The 
latter were ripped to pieces by a skeptical but in- 
dulgent friend. He attached the ski-pole ends to a 
pair of my light-weight wooden crutches. 

The first ski train that left New York that season 
had me on it with a crowd of my skiing friends and 
about five hundred other enthusiasts. We only went 
as far as Phoenicia. Off the train, one of my cohorts 
helped buckle on my lone ski, and I started pushing 
myself around with the crutch-ski poles to get the 
feel of it. 

I wish I could say that before the winter was over 
I was coming down the memorial ski slide like a wind 
straight out of Scandinavia. Such was not the case, 
however. I finally got to the place where I could skim 
up and down the gentle slopes of a golf course, but 
that was all. Still, at least two fellow amputees have 

167 



OUT ON A LIMB 

accomplished what I couldn't. Yves Gosselin, a stu- 
dent at Laval University at Lac Beauport, P. Q., and 
Bert Porter of Rutland, Vermont, both have proved 
that the downhill slalom can be executed with ex- 
ceptional professional skill and speed by one-legged 
skiers. I had a lot of fun anyway, with my unim- 
pressive ups and downs and got plenty of use out 
of the skiing togs— in fact, I practically wore the seat 
right out of the pants. However, on that first trip to 
Phoenicia, I wasn't even sure I could stand up on a 
ski. By the end of the day, I was sure on that point 
at least; I couldn't. 

Since this was the opening day of skiing for New 
York, several of the newspapers sent photographers 
out to get human-interest shots of the winter frolickers. 
It seems that I was a human-interest shot. 

Two photographers came up before I'd gotten a 
hundred yards from the train and asked if they could 
take my picture. 

"For goodness' sake, why?" I asked. 

"Because a girl with one foot who can ski is damned 
interesting," one of them said. 

"Well, I can't ski," I said. "I've only had this ski 
on for five minutes and I haven't done anything im- 
pressive yet but fall down." 

"Oh, that's O.K.," the photographer said. "You don't 
have to get technical about it." 

168 



SKI-DOODLING 

"Go ahead and let him take your picture," my 
friends all urged. 

"Why don't you wait until later?" I suggested. 
"Maybe I'll know how to ski in an hour or two." 

"We can't wait till you learn to ski, we've got a 
deadline to meet." 

Two photographers took my picture and so did a 
lot of unofficial stray sheep lugging Brownies. I could 
almost hear Father's voice booming clear across the 
continent. "Exhibitionist!" 

Fortunately nobody I knew ever saw the picture. 
It wasn't in the Times or the Herald Tribune. But 
everyone I didn't know saw it. 

The papers were already on the streets— or to be 
more precise, I should say in the subways— when we 
got back to New York. I got just the merest glimmer 
of what I was in for when we piled our skis into a 
cab to go home. 

The cab driver turned around and said, "Je-sus! I 
was just wishing I could lay eyes on you, kid. I was 
just now looking at your picture in the paper. I sure 
would like to see you ski." 

"Oh, that was all a terrible mistake," I apologized. 
"I can't ski." 

"That's what you say. You're just modest. But the 
paper says different and that's good enough for me." 

That was good enough for a lot of others as well. 

When I got back to my apartment house the eleva- 

169 



OUT ON A LIMB 

tor boy was absolutely beside himself. I felt as if 
I'd gone out that morning an ugly duckling and re- 
turned a swan. 

"Say, they got your picture in the paper! I was 
telling a guy, friend of mine, that I knew you real 
good and he didn't believe me. I said I sure knew 
you." 

"Well, that's right, you sure know me real good," 
I agreed. "You can tell him I said so." 

"Well, you see, this guy is skeptical. He says if I 
know you so good why don't I introduce him. He 
said two bucks I didn't know you at all. I said, 'Done.' ' 

"Where's your friend?" I sighed with resignation. 
"With that kind of money involved, you'd better bring 
him around." 

"He's down to the poolroom on Amsterdam— just 
two blocks from here. I'm supposed to be off duty now, 
but I stayed on till you got back. But I'm not asking 
you to go down to a poolroom. I wouldn't ask that 
of you." 

"I'm sure you wouldn't. We better go now, so that 
I can get back and see how many of my bones are 
broken." 

He offered to split the two dollars with me, but I 
figured it wasn't really honest money, and I wouldn't 
touch a penny of it. 

For the next two weeks everywhere I went elevator 
boys, butcher boys, Western Union boys, pouchy old 

170 



SKI-DOODLING 

boys, and just plain little boys nailed me. "Say, aren't 
you the lady that skis?" 

I finally just answered "Yes." From then on I spent 
every week end I could at Great Barrington or Placid 
or any place that had enough snow for me to fall down 
in. I had to learn to ski. It was the only way to make 
an honest woman of me. It nearly killed me. 

One of the most interesting encounters that resulted 
from that picture in the newspaper was my run-in 
with the law. I was walking along Fifth Avenue one 
afternoon when a big Irish policeman down the block 
took after me at a gallop. "Pardon me," he puffed 
when he caught up, "aren't you the lady that skis?" 

"Well, sort of." 

"I thought so." He grinned from ear to ear. "My 
sister has only one leg and she saw your picture in 
the paper and she said she'd sure like to meet you. 
She doesn't get around too well herself and she'd 
like to know how you possibly manage to ski. I told 
her I was sure I'd seen you on my beat once or twice 
right here on Fifth Avenue and that if I ever saw 
you again, I'd speak to you." 

"I'd be very happy to meet your sister," I said. And 
then I remembered a conversation I'd had just that day 
with Jessie Fenton, a novelist friend of mine for whom 
I was doing some typing. She was threatening to go 
out and pick up a New York policeman because she 
needed some authentic background material for an 

171 



OUT ON A LIMB 

arrest scene in her book Down the Dark Street. Here 
was the man for Jessie, complete with an amputee 
sister for me. 

"Why don't you bring your sister and come up and 
call on me some evening?" I suggested, and I whipped 
out a card and wrote out my address. "Could you 
come on Tuesday?" 

"Sure can!' 

We had quite a party. Dr. and Mrs. Fenton came, 
and so did my current beau, who didn't approve of 
my picking up a policeman on Fifth Avenue. 

"What's the matter with policemen?" I asked him. 
"You're just a glorified flatfoot with arch supporters 
yourself." He was with Army intelligence, a sort of 
a prewar cloak-and-dagger boy. 

My roommate was also present to cast her gloomy 
disapproving countenance on the proceedings. 

The sister was a charming young woman, and we 
spent most of the evening handing each other the 
usual sisterhood chitchat. Mrs. Fenton got all the 
answers for her arrest problem from the policeman. 
He blushed with pride and began composing his 
sentences carefully when he realized that he was 
contributing to literature. He entertained us for the 
remainder of the evening with some lurid and amusing 
incidents from his twenty years' duty as one of New 
York's Finest. Even my roommate— even my beau- 
admitted that it was a most successful soiree. 

172 



SKI-DOODLING 

A few days later the policeman delivered me a 
summons over the telephone. He said that he and his 
sister wanted to return my hospitality. I accepted 
promptly. They gave me dinner in a very nice restau- 
rant off Washington Square. We had a pleasant time. 
The cop dropped his sister off at her apartment in 
the Village and drove me uptown alone. 

It seemed that the policeman didn't want all one- 
legged girls to be sisters to him. He tried to put the 
long arm of the law around me. Thus ended a beautiful 
friendship. 



173 



CHAPTER XVI 

"Having a Wonderful Time" 

When I went to New York, I had in mind for 
myself a flashy career right out of a woman's 
slick magazine plot. I would have an office on at 
least the fifty-ninth floor of a skyscraper and would 
get ahead so fast that vice-presidents would shiver 
over their breakfast coffee daily in fear that when 
they got to their offices I would have usurped their 
swivel chairs. Friends in California were going to hear 
about me clear across the continent and marvel and 
envy. "Just think— and we never really appreciated her 
genius. She lives in a penthouse now. ..." I was 
going to be one of the noisiest trumpets in the Man- 
hattan symphony, and wear a John-Frederics hat 
with a rose on top. 

When I went in for my placement interview at 
Columbia, however, I was almost as startled as the 
counselor when I heard myself announce with burning 
sincerity that I'd like a job in the hinterland. 

"Do you mean that you'd leave New York?" she 
demanded sternly, as if she were giving me a sobriety 
test. 

174 



"HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME" 

"Yes," I said. "The subways smell. And I'd like to 
go some place where cultivation is on a larger scale 
than in the window boxes at Bonwit Teller. I'll live 
in the country and come back here on my vacations 
just to be quaint." 

"Of course," the counselor warned me, "the oppor- 
tunities for advancement probably won't be as plenti- 
ful if you take a job in a small town. I think you 
might be quite successful right here." 

"You know," I said, "confidentially, I don't think 
I really want to get ahead. Yesterday I visited some 
bright young friends of mine. They've all got fascina- 
ting jobs and they are all forging ahead fast. They 
live five in one apartment. To get into their bathroom, 
you have to fight your way through damp stockings 
that are as thick as Spanish moss growing on old oaks 
in a Louisiana swamp. I'll take less money in a spot 
where it goes farther and where people sometimes 
stroll. Of course, I'd just as soon have a job that's 
interesting." 

"Well, the Fels Research Institute at Antioch Col- 
lege in Ohio wants a secretary who can also edit their 
publications." 

On my way to California for the summer, I stopped 
in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and had an interview with 
Dr. Sontag, the director of the Fels Research Institute. 
It is one of the leading child-study centers in the 
country, making a long-range inquiry into the effects 

175 



OUT ON A LIMB 

of prenatal and postnatal environment. I wanted a job 
there very much. 

Just to face the issue immediately and have it over 
with, I said to Dr. Sontag, "I hope that my handicap 
doesn't come as too great a shock to you. It really 
isn't hampering to me at all, and I assure you that 
you won't have to make any allowances for me in 
assignment of duties, if you should decide to give me 
a chance here." 

Dr. Sontag, with dignified solemnity said, "As a 
physician there is very little that shocks me." 

Had I known him better at the time, I would have 
recognized a slight shift in the level of his right eye- 
brow that implied amusement. If he had possessed 
a beard I am sure he would have chortled into it. 

He hired me a few days later by telegram. When 
I returned to Ohio to take up my duties, I had a 
chance to see my reference letters that had been in 
the Doctor's possession when he interviewed me. 
There was no doubt; my handicap certainly didn't 
come as a surprise to him! 

Every single reference letter went into flowery rhet- 
oric about my physical condition. Curiously enough, 
the letters all treated my handicap like some kind of 
subtle virtue. It was dwelt upon much more fully 
than any of my good, sterling secretarial qualifica- 
tions. The letters were flattering enough, but I still 
marvel that anyone ever hired me— as a secretary 

176 



"HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME" 

anyway— on the basis of them. They certainly weren't 
typical recommendations. 

They contained choice eulogies similar to these: 
". . . and she can carry a cup of hot tea across a 
room as gracefully as anyone else." ". . . she can 
chin herself sixteen times on a bar." (It didn't specify 
what kind of a bar.) ". . . this girl can actually beat 
me at tennis." 

Ideally, the letters would have been most persuasive 
pleading the case of a somewhat bright slugger apply- 
ing for a job as bouncer in a night club. 

I asked Dr. Sontag whatever possessed him to 
take a chance on someone whose gentlest talent was 
carrying a cup of tea and who otherwise sounded 
thoroughly muscle bound and probably had two cauli- 
flower ears concealed under her hat. 

"I figured we could always use you to put down 
an insurrection." That was all the satisfaction I ever 
got out of him. 

My job had everything I like best— except a big 
salary. However, money stretched twice as far in a 
village as it would have in New York. I could wear 
comfortable shoes to work and I didn't have to put 
on a hat in the morning and race for the subway, 
and nobody cared whether or not I had a good little 
black dress from Saks. 

The staff at the research foundation and at the 
college were friendly and interesting people. The 

177 



OUT ON A LIMB 

subjects of the study— about one hundred children of 
all sizes and shapes and varieties— breezed in and 
out of the offices on schedule to liven up my routine. 
The work was varied, and I learned all manner of 
fascinating things while I corrected the spelling and 
punctuation of the scientists who did the research 
and wrote the publications. When I looked out my 
office window, I saw green grass with crocuses pushing 
through it in the spring and red leaves lying on it in 
the fall. There was air enough for everyone to breathe 
deeply. The vacations were long, with pay. And the 
Antioch atmosphere was so thoroughly congenial and 
stimulating that many people exposed to it go through 
the remainder of their lives with a retrogressive psy- 
chosis—a wistful tendency forever to look back on 
"the good old days." 

I am quite sure I would have grown old and tooth- 
less, but not rich, quite contentedly on that job, if I 
hadn't happened onto the one thing that had more 
appeal. 

During my second summer's vacation, my college 
roommate, Lucile Hutton, came East and together we 
drove my car all over Quebec and Ontario in Canada 
and through New England. It was on Cape Cod, in 
Provincetown, that the feeling came over me strongly 
that maybe my job in Ohio didn't have absolutely 
everything. We stayed in Provincetown much longer 
than we had planned, while I humored this whim 

178 



"HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME" 

which wasted no time developing into a lifetime con- 
viction. 

I met a Man. I have met quite a few in my day, 
but this was different. It was a pick-up. Who picked 
up whom is still a moot family question. Anyway, we 
met in the Provincetown Museum and wasted at least 
an hour acting interested in old Sandwich glass and 
whalebones. We haven't yet been formally introduced, 
but we've gotten by all right on an informal basis. 

I recognized the encounter as important. That very 
night I wrote a postcard to an attractive friend of 
mine in New York. "Having a wonderful time. Met a 
magnificent man in a museum. Terribly glad you 
aren't here." 

She replied by postcard. "Is magnificent man in 
museum a mummy? If so, glad I'm not there too." 

"Magnificent man not a mummy, but would make 
a fine pappy. I think his name is Herman, but that's 
all there is against him." 

His name wasn't Herman. It was Sherman— so, all 
faults thereby eliminated, he turned out to be perfect. 
To indicate my complete enthusiasm for him, I must 
admit that I accepted his proposal of marriage while 
still believing him to be Herman. 

I wasn't nearly as impetuous as he was, however. 
He didn't even have an approximation of my given 
name when he proposed. And he made his declara- 
tion, of necessity, at the top of his lungs. 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

We were riding horseback along the Cape Cod 
dunes. He suggested that we get off our horses, but 
since I was so unimpressive on the remount and 
didn't have a crutch with me, of course, I refused. 
I show a regrettable simple-mindedness at times. 

In addition to my own lack of cooperation, another 
deterrant to romance was my horse. He didn't feel as 
friendly disposed toward the other horse, as I did 
toward the other rider. In fact, my unobliging nag 
stayed at least two lengths ahead or two lengths be- 
hind his stablemate. 

Still "Herman" was a man of action who was de- 
termined to overcome all odds. He wished he knew 
my first name since he felt the situation might be 
cozier under the circumstances. But nothing could 
defeat him when his inspiration came. 

He yelled down the dunes after me. "Mrs. Harris! 
Mrs. Harris!" he called. "Will you marry me?" 

"Oh, Herman," I yelled back, "I would simply love 
to marry you and you may call me Louise, now that 
we are formally engaged." 

"And you may call me Sherman, if you want to," 
he said. "That's my name." 

So I did, and he did— and three months later we 
were married. 

The only reason we waited that long was because 
my father sent me a stern parental wire. "Insist you 

180 



"HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME" 

get acquainted with this stranger before marrying 
him/' 

As I said to Father, "You just don't know how easy 
it was to get acquainted with him. Besides, I'm terribly 
good at it." 



181 



CHAPTER XVII 

In Praise of a Peg Leg 

Sherman was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but since his 
father was a naval officer who merely happened 
to be stationed there at the time of this most blessed 
event, Sherman can't really claim the honest status of 
a fine old Southern Gentleman. The one thing he got 
from Virginia, he says, was a discriminating taste for 
mint juleps. This seems a bit precocious, since he left 
there at the age of six months, but I never question 
his talents. As a Navy junior, his life was a roving one. 
He did spend his preparatory school and college years 
in New Jersey, but he never legally adopted any 
locality until he got old enough to have an effective 
mind of his own. Then he chose himself a state and 
became much more tiresome about it than a native. 
He selected Arizona. 

In his enthusiasm for the place, he showed a mild 
touch in the head, quite similar to the psychosis that 
frequently afflicts Californians and Texans with their 
typical spells of wild, frenzied exultation over their 
native soil. When I met Sherman, he was only in the 

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IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

East vacationing with his family. I was not for a 
minute allowed to forget that he was still young 
Lochinvar out of the West. 

When he did his courting, he polished off two jobs 
simultaneously. He wooed me effectively and at the 
same time sold me Arizona. In fact, frequently his 
double-threat technique was a little confusing. If he 
spoke highly and with passionate warmth of the color 
"blue," for instance, there was no point in my fluttering 
my lashes. He was likely to be transported over the 
Arizona sky, not my eyes. And curves, well, they 
might be mine, but more probably he was describing 
some road high in the Chiricahua Mountains, 2500 
miles from me. It was a little disconcerting but now 
and again he'd toss good old Tray a nice bonus and 
I was content. 

He snared me in both traps. I not only was anxious 
to marry him, I was dying to be a Pioneer Woman in 
Arizona. If I couldn't actually mold the course of 
empire, I at least could paint the walls and hang 
some gingham curtains in the adobe house that Sher- 
man had out there, plunk in the middle of a terrific, 
overpowering piece of scenery. 

He was very forthright with me, before he lured 
me away from my typewriter and into the wilderness. 

"How do you feel about public utilities?" he asked. 

"Well," I said, "if you are inquiring about my dowry, 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

I own two common stocks in Pacific Gas and Electric. 
The income keeps me in chewing gum/' 

"No, that wasn't what I had in mind," he said. "I 
just wondered if you had any special attachment for 
running water, piped gas, electricity, and telephones." 

"Water, I like. I don't abstain. I'll take a drink with 
the best of them," I said, "and I do like my meat 
seared on the outside." 

"We'd have water, of course. There's a fine well 
and lots of heat but it comes from a fireplace and a 
coal cookstove." 

"For goodness' sake," I assured him lightheadedly, 
"that takes care of everything." 

"Except plumbing," he added ominously. 

But I wasn't one to let hot and cold running water 
and a flush toilet interrupt the course of true love. 

Sherman drove West in a new car and I went out 
a few weeks later on the train. He met me in New 
Mexico and we were married. 

We lived in an adobe house, a former ranger station 
in the Dragoon Mountains, long abandoned by the 
Forest Service. We paid five dollars a month for it. 
We had eighty acres of land, two horses who came 
galloping up when we rang a dinner bell, and a cow 
named Pearl (the variety that should be cast before 
swine). She was always kicking the bucket, but by 
that I don't mean she died. She wasn't that obliging. 
I still don't like milk. 

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IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

We also had twelve hens named for flowers. We 
couldn't distinguish Arbutus from Marigold, however. 
They all looked alike, except one that turned out to 
be a rooster. But he died violently early in life. The 
only problem connected with this anonymity was that 
when we stewed one of the girls, we never knew which 
blossom we'd plucked. 

We were forty-five miles from pavement, three 
miles from our postbox, twenty-six miles from the 
grocery store, and seven miles from a friendly neigh- 
bor. We did have a neighbor five miles away but he 
wasn't exactly cordial. He had the annoying habit 
of shooting at us. 

Everything Sherman told me about Arizona was 
true. The place positively reeked of fresh air. It was 
hand in glove with Nature, and everything Nature did 
around the place she did in a big way. There were 
tremendous mountains propped up all over the 
horizon. When the sun shone, it seared. When the 
rains came, they flooded. When the winds blew, they 
sounded like Niagara Falls torrenting down our canyon. 
When the furry friends in the forest made noises, they 
screeched because they were wildcats and mountain 
lions. It was all quite violent, and when I got over 
a slight nervous breakdown caused by finding a rattle- 
snake on my front doorstep one day and discovering 
a mountain lion on my roof one night, I quite liked 
it. I'd have made a fine wife for Daniel Boone. 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

The coal stove and I didn't hit it off like soul- 
mates from the start. We didn't read life's meaning 
in each other's eyes. I had to get onto her dietary 
habits and finally learned just the proper mixture of 
tinder for her tastes and how much coal to shovel into 
the ravenous, gaping black mouth. She was allergic 
to wood and smoked like a dragon when it was forced 
upon her as a quick snack. 

I finally became the master— or, at least, I thought 
I was the master. The stove, however, was a villain 
at stomach (she had no heart). She had a long-term 
design for demolishing me through my very devotion 
to her needs. 

It was carrying the coal buckets that worked the 
havoc. Sherman always drayed the fuel for both the 
stove and the fireplace. However, he became quite ill 
in the dead of winter and was in bed for several weeks. 
So, of necessity, I took to shoveling the coal. I thought 
I was quite the Amazon when I lugged my big bucket- 
fuls for the insatiable stove and chopped and carried 
wood to the equally ravenous fireplace. But I was 
being subtly undermined. 

I had heard of crutch paralysis from time to time 
throughout my life. In fact, old Mrs. Ferris who first 
instructed me in the use of crutches had warned me 
about it when she taught me to protect the brachial 
nerves by leaning my weight on the palms of my 
hands, not my armpits. But, frankly, I rather regarded 

186 



IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

the whole grim idea as an old wives' tale. Even when 
I began to feel a numbness in my hands, usually 
noticed in the night or in the morning when I awoke, 
I assumed that I'd been lying on my arm and that 
the member had gone to sleep. The fact that shaking 
my hand quickly brought it to life added evidence to 
this theory. 

When I began to experience a similar sensation 
during the day, I diagnosed myself as an arthritic and 
decided to see a doctor on our next trip to Tucson to 
find out what treatment was prescribed for arthritis. 
I didn't mention it to Sherman, since he was sick and 
might get fretful over it. I simply closed my mind to 
the possibility of crutch paralysis. 

My husband wasn't quite as debonair about it when 
I finally got around to mentioning casually that I had 
arthritis. 

"By the way," I announced one morning when he 
was up and convalescing waspishly, "I have arthritis 
now." 

"Arthritis!" he yelled at me. 

"Yes," I said huffily, "arthritis. Can't I have any- 
thing? You've been sick for four weeks." I described 
my symptoms. 

"Brachial paralysis!" He kept right on yelling. 
"Carrying the coal did it." He was sure. "That heavy 
weight pulling you down hard on the saddles of your 
crutches." He had me in the car and over ninety 

187 



OUT ON A LIMB 

miles of rough road to Tucson in an hour and a half. 

The doctor confirmed Sherman's diagnosis, not 
mine. I was, he told me, in the beginning stages of 
brachial paralysis and I'd have to quit carrying heavy 
things and leaning all my weight in my armpits while 
I did it. In fact, I'd have to get off my crutches com- 
pletely while I did my housework unless I wanted 
permanently useless arms. 

I was determinedly reluctant to accept this medical 
opinion. I regarded it as a conspiracy between 
Sherman and the doctor. "If I had come in without 
crutches," I insisted perversely, "mightn't you have 
said I had arthritis?" The thought of going back to 
an artificial leg seemed a dire fate to me. 

"Maybe," the doctor said, "but you came in on 
crutches." 

"How do you know you aren't just falling for the 
obvious?" Sherman dragged me away before I took 
the name of Hippocrates in vain. 

Of course, intellectually, I knew that the doctor 
had told me the truth and I was merely trying to 
prove him wrong because I was scared to death. A 
leg I could get along without nicely, but I was awfully 
attached to my arms. 

Sherman and I made plans to go to California as 
soon as possible and shop around for a prosthesis. 

Curiously coincidental, three days later, an ancient 
weather-beaten old prospector walked into our yard, 

188 



IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

leading a burro. It was not at all unusual for a pros- 
pector to appear at our house. I'd fed many of them 
who roamed through our lonely mountain area hunt- 
ing for pay dirt. They usually could spin wonderful 
yarns, but none of them ever had a story to tell me 
comparable in practical worth with this prospector's 
tale. 

He was a brother Elk. "Tim-bah!" Sherman called 
to me when he saw the old man appear at our gate. 
He wore a peg leg. 

I felt sorry for the old man because I figured he 
couldn't afford a better prosthesis than a peg. How- 
ever, he promptly put me right on that score. He felt 
sorry for me, because I didn't have sense enough to 
own a peg myself. 

"Young lady," he told me solemnly, "you already 
got yourself a man. If you figger you can keep him 
without being fancied up all the time, you get your- 
self a peg. It's a mighty handy thing to have." 

He told me about himself. He had been hurt in a 
mining cave-in, caught under a shattered stull. He 
had used crutches, of course. You can't escape that 
phase of development, and he'd also used an artificial 
leg with all the best modern gadgetry. But by studied 
choice, he was a devotee of the peg. He traveled over 
the roughest terrain, climbed mountains, scrambled 
over rocks, dug shafts, and crawled into them. He 
rarely knew the luxury of smooth sidewalks. 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

"The peg is the only prop for a real workingman," 
he told me. 

In his own jargon, he pointed out that the peg is 
a device that gets down to fundamentals. Any other 
prosthesis is merely a complication of the basic prin- 
ciple exemplified in the peg— with the addition of 
articulation and aesthetic qualities. The one-armed 
man's hook is a similar case in point. It is his basic 
usable prosthesis, with the artificial hand merely 
a cosmetic accessory to be worn for inactive dress 
occasions. The old prospector pointed out that the 
knee joint and the verisimilitude of shape in the arti- 
ficial leg add to the appearance of normalcy in the 
handicapped, but they also add weight and deduct 
efficiency and security. 

He told me that he once went out on a prospecting 
trip on a fine new artificial leg. He had learned to 
walk very well— on even floors and paved streets. He 
was tired, however, before he'd traversed a mile over 
the rough mountain trails that were an integral part 
of his normal life. And before he returned (on the 
burro, with a damaged and useless leg slung on behind 
the saddlebags), he was fatigued to the point of illness. 

"You can't do that to a burro," he explained simply. 
"Prospecting is all the life I know. I had to do some- 
thing, so I got me a peg. This one here I got in Tucson. 
Took the man three days to make it and it cost a 

190 



IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

quarter of the price of my regular wooden leg from 
up to Phoenix." 

That night Sherman and I decided to go to Tucson 
in the morning and order a peg to tide me over until 
such time as we could get someone to take care of 
our place while we went through the more prolonged 
custom leg building in California. 

The orthopedic fitter who measured me thought I 
was out of my mind. He kept telling me that he'd 
never before met a lady who wanted a peg, and his 
implication that I was certainly no lady was obvious. 
The whole deal made him frightfully nervous. I think 
he felt temporarily like a medical quack. He was very 
anxious to make me an orthodox limb. 

"Not just now," I told him. "I'm planning to get a 
regular artificial leg later, on the Coast." 

"You may," he assured me, "put your leg into my 
hands with confidence." 

I had forgotten the solemnity with which most of 
these craftsmen regard their trade. "There are few 
gentlemen into whose hands I put my leg with con- 
fidence," I said, but I should have held up a sign 
labeled "Joke: laugh please," because my friend the 
legmaker wasn't in the mood to cope with a comic. 

He merely gave me a disturbed grimace and told 
me with a shudder that I was making a horrible mis- 
step and wasting my fifty dollars. 

Actually, I never took a firmer step than that one 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

nor invested half a hundred more profitably. How- 
ever, I didn't know it myself at the time. I was inclined 
to share the orthopedic artisan's dim view. 

I felt like a perfect fool when I put the peg on 
and started using it around the house. There is some- 
thing basically comical about a Peg Leg Pete— at least, 
American humor has made it so. However, there was 
nothing comical in the fact that my paralytic symp- 
toms disappeared almost immediately and I could 
carry all the coal I wanted to. 

In a couple of weeks we went to California and I 
shopped around and finally ordered myself a $250 
leg— a splendid, shapely, glamorous number that I 
brought back and almost immediately hung in the 
closet. I put on the peg again. 

The old man was quite right. As a workingman's 
device it couldn't be outsmarted. It was light, and 
could be put on in the mornings almost as quickly 
as I could pick up a crutch. It didn't have to be 
dressed in a stocking and shoe. It played me no 
temperamental tricks. It was unbending, but as de- 
pendable as most virtuous, unbending characters are. 
It required no repairs and adjustments beyond an 
occasional new shoulder strap. And, well covered with 
the leg of my Levis, it scarcely showed. It just gave 
the rather unusual impression that I was half horse 
and had a foot on one side and hoof on the other. 

There is, I believe, a reason why practically all 

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IN PRAISE OF A PEG LEG 

French veterans of World War I who lost their legs 
wore pegs. They preferred them, and in France there 
were no mild snickers over the device. The wearers 
were honored for the symbol of their sacrifice. Even 
Maurice Bunau-Varilla, the owner of he Matin 
and one of France's wealthiest citizens, always wore 
a peg leg, and not because he couldn't afford the best 
and most scientific prosthesis on the market anywhere 
in the world. He used the peg, one of his acquaintances 
told me, because it was light, efficient, and completely 
dependable. 

I am still self-conscious about Margaret (Peggy to 
her intimates). I never venture out of the house on 
it, except to garden in my own yard. I am just too 
vain. I put on my artificial leg or, more generally, my 
crutches, when I face people. Many of my close 
friends don't even know I possess a peg, since I don't 
often admit to ownership of this naive little device. 
However, if some cold, blizzardy night I were faced 
with the necessity of chopping up either my artificial 
leg or my peg for firewood, it would be my fancy, 
curved confection that would get the ax. 

I don't lug coal any more. I now live quite a civilized 
life, with all the elegant utilities on tap. But I always 
do my housework on the peg. It is preferable to my 
highly respected crutches since it leaves my arms free 
to reach for cobwebs and it allows pliability that the 
crutches prohibit— bending and stretching. I trust the 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

peg, even if it isn't as cosmetic as a leg, as thoroughly 
as I would a good precalamity flesh and blood 
appendage. Moreover, at the end of spring house- 
cleaning, I may be tired, but it's not from lugging 
around about twenty pounds of beautifully carved 
tree. 

I don't make a brief for the use of a peg leg by 
a person who possesses his own knee. These aristo- 
cratic unipeds aren't in my class at all. Nor is there 
any advantage to a man who never leaves the pave- 
ment and works at a desk all day. But for anyone 
with a thigh amputation who has a more active role 
in life than sitting on a satin sofa and contemplating 
his own calves, there's nothing like it. 

Also, if you're invited to a masquerade and own a 
peg, you can always dress up like Long John Silver 
and win first prize. I did, anyway. 



194 



CHAPTER XVIII 

Gone to the Dogs 

In the wilderness our social life was not madcap. 
Week ends we frequently had guests from Tucson— 
the hardy kind who really liked to rough it and were 
very useful as woodchoppers. We also occasionally 
had the "I-love-the-common-people" variety. This 
species thought we were "just terribly quaint, my 
dear" and "wasn't it absolutely thrilling getting close 
to Nature." They were usually useless and invariably 
got so close to Nature on one visit that they departed 
with the conviction that it wasn't quaint we were, 
but crazy. 

About once a week we saw our closest friends, Carr 
and Barbara Tuthill, archaeologists, who were digging 
up a dead civilization near by. They knew how to cope 
with our folkways and mores because theirs were 
similar. 

Weekdays when we had any social life, which was 
rare, it was with our neighbors. This usually consisted 
of the men in one corner discussing the "feed" (the 
state of the grass that the cattle grazed on), and the 

195 



OUT ON A LIMB 

women in another corner "window shopping" to- 
gether through the Sears Roebuck catalogue. 

We did have a temporary dizzy whirl of popularity 
at the time we put in plumbing. Everyone came to 
gaze at the wonder of it all. We thought of holding 
open house with punch ladled from the bathtub. One 
family, with whom we were only on nodding terms, 
brought all seven of their children over for an edu- 
cational call. 

These little pets all had running noses that their 
Mother couldn't catch up with. She was the official 
custodian of the one family handkerchief, and she 
swabbed here and there when the situation got really 
acutely effusive. It was obvious from the beginning 
that they had all come over merely to try out the 
new plumbing. Someone was in the bathroom all 
evening— usually two at a time— one to instruct and 
one to perform. 

One rancher's wife demanded that her husband 
install plumbing at their place. After all, she argued, 
if we could have it, why couldn't she? 

He gave out with the following incomprehensible 
logic. "You don't need plumbing," he told her flatly. 
"They only need it because that poor woman is 
crippled." 

"Honestly!" the ranch wife told me, "it just makes 
me want to break my leg— I swear it does." 

Actually our most congenial and constant compan- 

196 



GONE TO THE DOGS 

ions in the wilderness, of necessity, were animals. A 
lonely life promotes a strong kinship between animals 
and humans. This kinship is likely to get completely 
out of hand, in fact, and become almost pathological. 
We found ourselves continually comparing our dog's 
looks and character to that of some our oldest friends 
and relatives— with the dog winning all the Oscars. 

We were on cordial terms with a great variety of 
creatures. We even had an amiable relationship— or 
at least a friendly truce— with a skunk who lived under 
our house. We also had a tame baby bassarisk (the 
ring-tailed cat) and a tame road runner or paisano, 
the comical bird of the Southwest who makes better 
time on foot than on wing. 

Our real intimates, however, were Pancho, a huge 
German shepherd one hundred pounds on the hoof 
and built on the general lines of a great Dane; and a 
small runt of a gray tomcat, named "Oscar the Wild," 
but known to his consorts as "Kitty." 

I would gladly have taken a correspondence course 
in barking and meowing for the privilege of com- 
municating with these two in their own language. The 
dog, however, was an intellectual. He could under- 
stand English. I almost believe he could have spoken 
it too, if he'd had a mind to. But he was an unpre- 
tentious fellow who felt he should remain a dog for 
appearances' sake. When I got really frantic over 
silences, I talked to Pancho by the hour. He, more 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

than anyone I ever knew, treated my opinions with 
grave respect. 

Pancho was remarkable. He looked upon most 
humans with a wary, suspicious eye. We didn't dis- 
courage his cynicism. A good ranch watchdog is more 
valuable than a dozen Yale locks. Nobody ever un- 
latched our gate, uninvited, when Pancho was on the 
other side of it announcing his intention to rip the 
intruder into mouth-size bites. The dog tolerated our 
friends, but he simply didn't love anyone except Sher- 
man and me— and all other people who used crutches! 

He first displayed this gentle quirk in his nature one 
day when we were in Tucson. Pancho always walked 
along the city streets on a leash, carrying his aristo- 
cratic nose high and peering down it at pedestrians. 
Frequently people spoke to him admiringly, but he 
treated them with the disdain of a royal prince grossly 
insulted by a commoner. 

But one day, as we strolled along, his tail started 
wagging ecstatically and he pulled me right up to a 
stranger standing by a shop window. The man used 
crutches. Pancho made a great demonstration of 
approval. I finally dragged him away. 

It didn't occur to me then that it was the crutches 
that softened the heart of the dog. I merely assumed 
that from a canine point of view, the stranger, who 
was none too scrubbed and tidy, must have had a 
very delicious and meaty smell. 

198 



GONE TO THE DOGS 

However, when we were in California, Pancho 
again displayed an instantaneous interest in a crutch 
user whom we encountered on a tree-inspection tour 
down San Pasqual Avenue in Pasadena. This was a 
very neat and fastidious woman. Pancho went right up 
to her and, showing a great deal of his old-world 
charm, told her in a most cordial manner that she 
was a femme fatale. 

"What a nice, friendly dog," the woman said. 

"Well," I explained, "actually, he is generally re- 
garded as a menace to life and limb. You know, I 
think he likes you because you use crutches." 

"All dogs like me," she said, but this was a con- 
fession that always left Pancho cold. I was convinced 
it was the crutches. 

Just to test this theory, I took the dog around to 
call on a two-crutch friend of mine. And instead of 
snubbing her, which was his usual superior practice 
with my friends, Pancho greeted her with humble 
servitude. 



Anyone on crutches who loves dogs has to watch 
out for the enthusiastic ones who jump up. A crutch 
with its basic construction of the split stick, the two 
parts spread at the top and gradually slanted to join 
in a ferrule at the bottom, creates a vicious trap for 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

a friendly paw. The first lesson I teach a new puppy 
is not to jump up— on me, anyway. 



In spite of all my communing with animal life, I 
found time a little heavy on my hands when Sherman 
was caged up writing Western pulp stories, the cat 
was off sparring with mice, and the dog was out 
chasing jack rabbits. I was the only nonprofessional 
member of the family. To break the habit of tapping 
my foot against the floor to amuse myself, I also took 
to writing short stories. 

I used the kitchen table as an office desk. To tnis 
day, I find that my only touch of artistic temperament 
is a tendency to work most effectively with the odor 
of stew or baking beans in the air. When inspiration 
fails me, I can usually summon it back by cleaning 
out the refrigerator or baking a pie. I miss the coal 
bucket, however, on which I used to prop my peg. 
I have often thought that if I ever get rich and famous 
f 11 buy myself a sterling silver coal scuttle, fill it with 
hunks of black obsidian, and have it sitting by my 
desk for a pegstool. I think that would be a rather 
appropriate whim for an eccentric literary figure. 

When I sold my first story I simply couldn't regard 
the check as serious money. I was too amazed at 
becoming an "author." The honorarium seemed like 
a windfall from Heaven, like an inheritance from a 

200 



GONE TO THE DOGS 

distant relative I'd never heard of. I treated it precisely 
as I used to treat quarters slipped me by an indulgent 
uncle when I was ten. I went right out and spent it 
frivolously, buying myself some fancy clothes that I 
had absolutely no place to wear. Sherman and I still 
refer to a neat little black number that hung unused 
for two years in my closet as my "author's dress." 

It wasn't until the war and Sherman kissed me 
farewell and marched off to fight for Old Glory that 
I began treating my "literary" checks with proper 
respect— buying bread and bacon and gingham dresses 
with them. 

The war took us away from our little canyon haven. 
It would have been a perfect place for a draft dodger 
to hide, as I pointed out to Sherman, but he couldn't get 
into an enlistment queue fast enough. We packed into 
our station wagon all our possessions worth transport- 
ing, and assigned custody of Chico, the road runner, 
to the country schoolteacher, who also took over our 
lease. With the dog and cat, we set off for California. 
Sherman stowed me away in a cottage at Laguna 
Beach before rushing off to protect the Four Freedoms. 

Pancho, who would have made a splendid hospital 
orderly in the K-9 Corps, as Comforter First Class to 
convalescents on crutches, was our only fatal wartime 
casualty. He was a wilderness dog who recognized 
the splintered scream of a mountain lion and knew 
the menace of the dry paperlike crackle of a rattle- 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

snake, but he was naive about city hazards. One 
night I let him out for his usual run on the beach 
before bedtime. I never walked him myself along the 
shore because crutches sink deep into sand and make 
hard going. He didn't return. 

I called him several times. But since he frequently 
stayed for long periods, wildly racing the waves along 
the shore and stirring up the seagulls into white clouds, 
I wasn't worried until a young man came and knocked 
on my door. 

"Is your dog here?" he asked me. Somehow I could 
tell that this was only a rhetorical question. 

"No," I answered. "No, he isn't here." I suddenly 
had a stomach full of sick fear. 

"I'm afraid your dog is badly hurt," the young man 
told me. "He tried to get home but he fell just down 
the street. It must have been a hit and run driver on 
the blacked out highway. I recognized him as the big 
black dog who belonged to the girl on crutches, so 
I started hunting for you, even though I didn't know 
your name. A man three doors down said that a girl 
on crutches lived in this house. A friend of mine is 
getting his car. We'll drive you to the veterinarian." 

"You're very kind," I said, "but I have a car." 

"No, it would be best if we drove you through the 
dimout. It's probably hard for you to drive." 

Tenderly these two good Samaritans lifted the 
broken body of the beautiful dog into their car. With 

202 



GONE TO THE DOGS 

gasoline more precious than Chanel No. 5, they drove 
me eight miles along the war-darkened coast highway 
to a veterinarian. 

The dog knew, I think, that his head rested in my 
lap. He gave a deep, shuddering sigh, half agony and 
half content, before he died. If it hadn't been for my 
identifying crutches, my dear old friend would have 
had to depart in loneliness. It is curious what strange 
purposes they have served. 

Sherman bought me a frisky, leaky, new German 
shepherd puppy on his next leave. He was an engaging 
little fellow and I loved him, but he never quite filled 
my heart, which was stretched to accommodate the 
big, crutch-loving old Pancho. 



I wish I had done as much for the war effort as my 
crutches did for me during the war. In a patriotic 
effort to keep Democracy alive, I finally had to wear 
my artificial leg when I went to stand in a meat line. 
Frenzied women, frantic for a smell of beef, would 
still push me and my crutches right up to a counter 
ahead of themselves. I always felt so apologetic that 
I'd have only enough courage to ask for a soup bone. 
Since I figured I'd probably get rickets before the war 
was over on such rations, I wore the leg. On it, I was 
allowed to take my turn and fight honorably for my 
half-pound of hamburger. 

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OUT ON A LIMB 

One friendly butcher didn't allow himself to be 
fooled by my democratic little disguise, however. "Got 
to fill up that hollow leg," he whispered like a con- 
spirator, and howled over his high wit while he swayed 
and banged his hand against his bloody apron. "I 
saved you a roast." 

There is a point beyond which nobility of nature 
simply can't beat down temptation. I ate disgustingly 
well during the war. 

Sherman was in the Army only a scant year. They 
decided he wasn't quite durable enough for their 
purposes. They gave him an honorable discharge to 
bring home, along with his chronic sinusitus. But 
durable or not durable, he got back just in time to 
engage in a more strenuous bout than basic training. 
Our beach cottage was sold over our heads and we 
went forth to bat out our brains against the housing 
shortage. 



204 



CHAPTER XIX 

The Face on the Cuttingroom Floor 

During our frantic house-hunting pilgrimage, 
whenever we could outmaneuver them, we 
moved in on our relatives. Our most tolerant hosts 
were Sherman's parents, who welcomed us with con- 
vincing enthusiasm at their home in Pasadena. They 
even put up a good front of stoic calm when their 
cook departed with a couple of unkind cuts at how 
much we ate. She also mentioned an aversion for 
our dog and made it clear that our cat's habit of 
bringing his mice to the kitchen door to show off 
before consuming them was ill bred and upsetting to 
a refined, high-minded kitchen queen. 

It was in Pasadena that Sherman had a sinus opera- 
tion and I had a movie offer. We both nearly died of 
our respective shocks. 

I was walking along Colorado Boulevard in Pasa- 
dena one day when a puffy little citizen raced up 
behind me. "Wait! You with the crutches. Just a 
minute," he yelled. I waited. 

205 



OUT ON A LIMB 

"Say, young lady," he panted, "would you like a 
job with the movies?" 

"What have you got to offer?" I asked in a feeble 
attempt at the grand manner. 

"I haven't anything myself, but get hold of today's 
paper. I saw an ad in there. You fill the bill exactly. 
I've got to run—catch my bus." 

With that, he was gone. Of course, I grabbed every 
paper on the newsstand. It was there, all right. 
"WANTED: a girl with an amputated leg for movie 
work. Would prefer one who uses crutches habitually. 
Good pay and easy work." 

The two latter lures always appeal to me, even when 
they aren't tied up with the movies. The combination 
was irresistible. 

"How would this do for an opener in my applica- 
tion letter?" I said to Sherman that night. "My friends 
all say I am fascinating. Why, just today I was walking 
along when someone called me Ann Sheridan— open- 
and-shut case of mistaken identity." 

"Surprise them," Sherman advised cynically. "Let 
Mr. Goldwyn say, 'Why, Miss Sheridan, don't tell me 
you hacked off your leg just for this little old part?' ' 

"I wonder what studio it is," I day-dreamed like 
an adolescent. "I bet it's Twentieth Century-Fox. 
They're casting for the Song of Bernadette. Jennifer 
Jones is probably even now planning to grow me a 
new leg for a minor miracle." 

206 



THE FACE ON THE CUTTINGROOM FLOOR 

I finally wrote a dignified little note swimming over 
what a charmer I was. I merely admitted to my ful- 
fillment of the amputation requirement. I sent it off 
to the anonymous box number given in the ad. 

The next day I had a telephone call. It was the 
movie magnate. He told me his name, but it didn't 
sound familiar. He wasn't Louis B. Mayer, anyway, 
or Darryl Zanuck. He asked me a few questions. 
The only one I can remember was, "How old are you?" 

I crossed my fingers and said twenty-five. If he 
questioned that later, I figured I could always tell 
him I had lived recklessly and was considerably jaded 
for my years. He made an appointment to call on me. 

He arrived the next day with some henchman in 
tow. "Look, she even wears the white crutches," one 
of the men said the first thing when they came into 
the house. 

"Yes, very interesting, very interesting indeed—" 

This, I gathered, was dandy. I must say I was 
startled when I discovered why. They were casting 
the lead, they told me, for a Government-sponsored 
film for distribution to servicemen and foreign audi- 
ences, on the life of the famous one-legged French 
prostitute who habitually used white crutches. Her 
part in the underground resistance movement was a 
courageous and fascinating story and would prove a 
great morale builder when depicted on the screen. 

"She has now disappeared from Paris and no one 

207 



OUT ON A LIMB 

knows what happened to her, whether she was spirited 
away by friends or whether her role was discovered 
by the Nazis. I don't suppose you have heard of her?" 
the casting one asked. 

"Well, rather!" I said. It was difficult to forget my 
encounter on the Place de l'Opera with the sad-eyed 
young man who had advised me passionately to throw 
away my white crutches. 

Before they departed, they informed me that they 
were completely satisfied. The part was mine. I would 
hear from them shortly when the picture was ready 
to go into production. I asked the leader of the intrigue 
for his name and studio connection. He scrawled 
them out on a piece of paper. 

That night I decided it might be just as well to 
find out a little about my producer before I signed 
up as a prostitute with him. I called up everyone I 
knew who hobnobbed with the higher brackets in 
Hollywood. Nobody had ever heard of my man. I 
even called everyone I knew who had so much as 
eaten a square meal at the Brown Derby, but I drew 
a blank. 

Finally I tracked down an acquaintance who 
was as ignorant as all the rest about the mysterious 
stranger, but he, as casting director of a large studio, 
was in a position to make effective inquiry. 

He telephoned "my" studio. "My" man was nol 
known. That was deflating. An Army moving-picture 

208 



THE FACE ON THE CUTTINGROOM FLOOR 

unit occupying a corner of the lot didn't know him 
either. The O.W.I, office in Los Angeles in charge 
of government wartime films, never heard of him, nor 
were they scheduling the story described. They were, 
in fact, closing their offices that very day. The studio 
legal department got somewhat fretful and excited. 
But if it was a racket, it certainly was a peculiarly 
subtle one, with a very specialized species of victims. 

I hated to give up my movie man. "Maybe he was 
somebody terribly important, slumming under a false 
name," I told Sherman. "You know, out getting close 
to the common people." 

"Yes," said Sherman. "He was probably Pandro S. 
Berman, out 'Pandroing' incognito." 

From that day to this I have heard nothing more 
from my movie magnates. They came, they looked 
me over, told me I was a great find, and left. What 
they were up to is anyone's guess. I for one have 
contrived some magnificent plots. 

If they wanted to locate a certain, particular one- 
legged girl by putting out the irresistible bait of a 
movie job, they probably found her. I wouldn't know. 
But obviously, they weren't looking for me. I'm still 
my old undiscovered self. 

But if I never "made Hollywood" as an actress I 
did sell a book to the movies. It was titled Party Line 
and related a few odds and ends of juicy gossip that 
I picked up during a misspent youth listening in on 

209 



OUT ON A LIMB 

the telephone. For the most part, it was written in 
Prescott, Arizona, where the waves of the housing 
problem finally washed us ashore. Here not only 
desperation but delight in the place and the people 
turned us into immovable landmarks. We quit trying 
to rent a house and bought one, a small cottage 
formerly owned and occupied by a nice old lady. 

Instead of throwing it out, which might have been 
the wiser course, she threw in her furniture along 
with the house. Artistically speaking, the most domi- 
nant piece we acquired thus was probably the stiff, 
carved Victorian settee in the living room, or possibly 
the picture which hung over it of a flimsily draped 
female sitting by a waterfall bathing her clean, bare 
feet. 

From my own personal point of view, however, 
nothing pierced my emotions quite so sharply as the 
black coal stove in the kitchen. The house was only 
three years old and was well plumbed and equipped 
with other modern devices. But the old lady appar- 
ently had one psychopathic quirk. She would have 
no truck with newfangled stoves. 

It had been my equally firm intention never to 
have any more truck with the old-fashioned, black- 
sided, blackhearted ones. However, we knew this 
was Custer's last stand. Our despair was such that we 
would have happily accepted a wigwam with central 
heating— a bonfire in the middle. We'd even have 

210 



THE FACE ON THE CUTTINGROOM FLOOR 

taken six Hopi boarders, if they came with the place. 

So, my book was composed on a kitchen table, with 
my peg again propped up comfortably on a coal 
scuttle. This may have been a tonic for my artistic 
temperament, but it was an irritant to my human 
temper. Civilization had weakened me. 

As winter advanced and the snow heaped up 
around the coal cellar and Sherman collapsed with 
sinusitus, the rationing board took pity on me. They 
gave me a certificate for a new gas range. "That poor 
woman . . ." "Sad case . . ." ". . . one-legged, you 
know . . ." 

How firm a foundation! Praise the Lord! 



My reputation for being not only physically 
crippled but something of a lame brain probably 
prompted the question that one local citizen put to 
my husband when my book was published. "Say, 
would you mind my inquiring how much it cost you?" 

"What do you mean?" Sherman asked. 

"Did the printing run high? My wife's written a 
lot of junk, too— poems and such like— and she'd like 
to get it published, and I just wondered how much 
that sort of thing sets you back. You don't figure to 
cover your expenses on the book sales, do you? 
Nobody's got that many kinfolks." He chortled mer- 
rily. "Of course, with you it's different," he went on 

211 



OUT ON A LIMB 

seriously. "You'll get rid of a lot of copies to people 
who'll buy it because your wife's crippled," 

I am glad, for the health of my royalties, that the 
book sold in a few places besides my own home town. 
But it wasn't my name on a national best-seller list 
that warmed my heart and made me feel important. 
It was the string of customers who bought out the 
local supply of my book in half an hour after it went 
on the block. With these purchasers, buying the book 
wasn't an impersonal transaction. In most cases, they 
didn't know whether the critics said it was tripe or a 
treasure. They bought the book because I wrote it and 
they wanted to see me get ahead in the world. 

What is an anonymous customer compared to the 
eager little boy who stood in line, representing his 
widowed mother who worked and couldn't get time 
off to come for her copy? He had his two dollars and 
fifty cents clutched in his fist and he whispered to 
me as I autographed his book. 

"We already got seven books," he said proudly, "but 
Mama decided to buy your book anyway— you being 
crippled and she knows you, besides. Loraine gets 
to read it first because she washed dishes all week. 
Mama's going to read it nights when us kids are in 
bed. Fred's going to read it second, and Jane's going 
to read it out loud to me third. Then Mama's go- 
ing to send it to Grandma to read and then we're 

212 



THE FACE ON THE CUTTINGROOM FLOOR 

going to keep it on the table right between Papa's 
picture and the goldfish." 

Another customer, a sweet old lady, patted me on 
the shoulder while I inscribed her copy. "We're 
all proud of you, dear," she said. "As I said to my 
daughter, something worth while came out of your 
misfortune. If you hadn't had to sit down and rest 
so often, I expect you'd never have had the time to 
write a book, would you? I guess you'd be the first 
to admit that some good resulted from your being 
handicapped." 

For that latter bit of philosophy anyway, there is 
no argument. I certainly would be the first to admit 
that quite a bit of good has come from my being 
handicapped. For one thing, I can't possibly imagine 
what in Heaven's name there would have been to put 
in this, my autobiography, if I'd had two feet. 



THE END 



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